SATURDAY MORNING TONIC: What You Didn't Know About Placenta + Reasons Why Yorubas Bury Placenta

Date: 18-07-2015 7:48 am (8 years ago) | Author: Mister Jay Wonder
- at 18-07-2015 07:48 AM (8 years ago)

About a year after a man who has asked to be identified simply as Tokunbo and his friend (name withheld) returned from overseas in 2010, Tokunbo’s friend had a baby. The father of the baby asked Tokunbo to accompany him to the hospital where the baby was delivered to give him ecstatic welcome. At the hospital, one of the nurses gave the placenta to Tokunbo’s friend. He collected it and knew what to do with it. But he was in a fix. The thought of where to bury the placenta, an age-long tradition among the Yoruba in South-West Nigeria, pervaded his mind.

His allpervasive joyous mood was temporarily halted because he had no idea where to bury what the Yoruba called ‘ibi’ or ‘olubi’ (bad) or what the vast majority of them will euphemistically refer to as ‘ikeji omo’ (baby’s companion). Tokunbo said: “My friend was worried. He lived in an estate and he felt it is not proper to bury the placenta in an open place.

I did not know where to suggest when he sought my view on this important tradition. We left the hospital with the placenta at night. As we drove through Iyan-Ipaja Road in Lagos, we saw a T-Junction near a market. “My friend who drove the car we were in quickly pulled over.

He was so excited and said the junction was appropriate to carry out the tradition. While I did not oppose the idea, I was dump-founded when he said burying his baby’s placenta at the place would give his baby fame because of the mass of people who pass through the junction on a daily basis.”

According to Tokunbo, when the area became desolate and was as silent as a graveyard, they dug the ground and buried the placenta there. On his part, when Saheed (surname withheld) had his first baby in 2011, his father-in-law had sent someone to pick his daughter and grandchild because of the proximity where the baby was delivered to his residence when they were discharged. Saheed, who is in his early 40s, was on night duty where he works at a Lagos- based beverage and confectionary firm when his wife was discharged less than 24 hours after she had the baby.

The next morning, Saheed went to pick his wife and baby at his father-in-law’s residence. His father-in-law told him to find out from one of his aides where the baby’s placenta was. He added: “But I found it curious when my father-in-law suggested that I could bury the placenta in his compound.

Besides, I was ill at ease when I learnt that a place had been dug already without my content. Of course, I cleverly took away my baby’s placenta without his knowledge and buried it at a secret location.” When asked whether he felt it could be used for something sinister if it was buried in his father-in-law’s compound, he said: “I wouldn’t know but I also needed to be careful. Why do I have to bury my baby’s placenta in my fatherin- law’s compound?”

Why the Yoruba bury it
While some myths which reflect beliefs, traditions and values of the Yoruba can only be read in oral literature text books today, some are still being carefully preserved and have been passed from one generation to another thus making them a meaningful part of everyday life.
One of such traditions that have refused to die among the Yoruba is the burying of baby’s placenta, a tradition that is carried out mostly by the father or in his absence by a member of his family or who the wife chooses to do it in the absence of her husband. Wikipedia describes placenta (also known as afterbirth) “as an organ that connects the developing foetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply, fight against internal infection and produce hormones to support pregnancy.”

A retired nurse, Mrs. Modupe Pearce, 73, who worked for 35 years before she quit in 2000, said it develops about three months into pregnancy and is expelled after the birth of a baby. She recalled that the practice is more prevalent among the Yoruba but added that having worked in the South East before she retired, she knew that some Igbo also asked for placentas after their wives had been delivered of their babies.

On why the Yoruba called it “ibi”, a nonagenarian retired traditional birth attendant, Alhaji Usman Alade, said the world is a vicissitude of the “good, the bad and the ugly.” He added: “The baby is the good and placenta is the bad. While we take the good home, we are to bury the bad because we cannot take something that is bad home. That is the tradition we met our fathers doing and we also emulated them. “Besides, after 24 hours, the placenta will become putrid.

That is why a Yoruba proverb says: “bad thing should be buried immediately”. So, why do we have to keep placenta at home? But it is also very important not just because of the role it plays during pregnancy but because unless it comes out of the woman’s womb, we cannot congratulate her. This is why the birth attendant will not announce the arrival of the baby unless the placenta has expelled from the woman’s wombs.” Alade, who retired after over 20 years of practice, said he learnt the trade from his uncle, who was a popular traditional birth attendant in Igbogila, Ogun State, in those days. “When you have been doing something over time, you are expected to be good at it,” he added.

Ingenious ways of removing placenta
He said whenever a placenta refuses to expel, there are traditional ways of forcing it out of the wombs. He added: “One of the ways is to put a ladle in a hot water, pour palm oil on it and place it on the tongue of the woman. The heat that is produced from the oil will push out the placenta after she is asked to push.

“In the alternative, we can call the placenta out of the wombs using incantation. After the birth of the baby, the placenta is no more useful. It has become a bad thing and we cannot live with it. Hence, it has to be disposed.” On her part, Pearse said unclaimed placentas at hospitals were usually tied in polythene bags and taken to the dustbin before being transferred to the dumpsite.

However, she recalled that during training as midwife, the trainees were admonished to be wary of how they handled placentas because of the tradition and belief of the Yoruba, adding that “this warning coupled with what we grew up to know as the tradition guided us as nurses working in government’s hospitals.”

Man created a scene over his baby’s placenta
She recalled how a man created a scene in the 70s at the Island Maternity when he did not get a satisfactory answer on how his baby’s placenta was disposed. “I can’t recollect exactly what happened. I think the placenta was given to the wife who in turn gave it to her husband’s first wife. The husband was furious wondering why it was given to his wife and not to him.

The management had to warn the nurses that it must be given to only the fathers. “Thereafter, we also included two black polythene bags among items to be brought by pregnant women who were due to deliver. As soon as the placenta comes out, we put it in the polythene bags and hand it over to the husband if he is around. If he is not around, we will give it to the wife and monitor the situation to ensure she hands it over to her husband. Some traditionalists used ‘awo pebi’ (a small clay pot) to put the placenta but we use polythene bags,” she added.

A woman thought I should keep it for eight days
Alade also said before he retired, he delivered a woman of her baby and was discharged the same day. “But I waited for the father or any of the relatives to take delivery of the placenta but nobody came for it. After the third day, I asked that it should be disposed because of the odious smelling it was generating.

To my surprise, on the day of christening of the day, which was the eight day after his birth, the woman’s grandmother approached me for the placenta. I told her I had asked someone to throw it away. “I asked her if she expected me to keep such thing at home for eight days and endure the offensive odour. From her countenance, it was obvious she was not happy. I simply asked her to go and bring the police if she was not satisfied with my explanation,” he added.

Why it must be handled with care
But another traditional birth attendant, Alhaji Semiu Raheem, said it was uncultured for any Yoruba man to handle placenta with levity under the pretext of modernisation, warning that such practice could have a devastating effect on the baby in his adult life.

Besides, Raheem, who is the proprietor of Alaafia Loju Tradomedical Home Agege, Lagos, and has over 20 years’ experience as a traditional birth attendant and paediatrician, said placenta could be used to prepare an ointment to prevent stillbirth. Raheem, who claimed that he inherited traditional medicine from his father, said: “I did not support that it can be handled anyhow.

For instance, if a woman consistently has stillbirth, immediately she has another baby we can use the placenta of that baby to prepare a traditional medicine that will be mixed with an ointment. Whenever the baby has crisis, all the mother needs to do is rub the ointment on his body.

No matter how high the baby’s temperature is, it will become normal after a few hours. “I swear with the name of Almighty God that that baby will not die. We have done it so many times and it worked for us. If it can be used in such a way, why must we handle it carelessly? It can cause a lot of havoc for the baby in the future if the parents were careless with the placenta.” Describing the placenta as a baby’s “power house” and” live wire”, he said burying it differs from one family to another depending on family lineage, traditions and taboo. He added: “Some believe that it should be put in a small pot before it is buried.

For some, it can be buried without being put in a pot. Yet for some, there are other traditional rites that will be performed before it is buried. It may be to wade off unnecessary sickness from the baby as he grows up. It may be to prevent the baby from becoming a stillbirth. Some people will add alligator pepper for longevity and good health.

There is also a species of leaf called ‘ewe ape’, which will be put on top of the placenta for long life. “I believe in such tradition because we saw our fathers do it and I have also practiced it on some many occasions and can attest to its efficacy. We don’t recommend any method to our clients.

Ours is to hand it over to them and they are at liberty to do it according to their belief and traditions. But if they inquired from us, we will enlighten them on what to do provided it is not a taboo in their families.” Raheem said if non-Africans flush their babies’ placentas into the toilets or dump them at dump sites “that does not mean we should take a cue from them and jettison our traditions.”

When asked whether non-Yoruba clients do ask for placenta after childbirth at his centre, he said: “All our clients irrespective of their tribes ask for it. Besides, it is our practice that placenta should not be kept with us. We know the implication of mishandling it. After childbirth, we give individual’s placenta to the parents. Thereafter, how they handle it is not our business.”

Why some are buried in clay pots
On whether there is a difference between the one put in a pot before it is buried and the one buried without a pot, Raheem said there is a difference between the two methods. He said: “In the olden days, after putting it in a pot, it will be buried in a wet ground probably at the back of a bathroom or even in a bathroom.

Their belief is that when this is done, the nature of the boy will be as cool as cucumber water.” When asked whether there was justification for the man who buried his baby’s own at a T-junction to give the baby fame, he said he would not rule out the possibility “because that may be the belief and tradition of the man’s family.” He added: “Most of the people who became thugs may be as a result of ignoring our traditions by their parents.

If one hundred babies had their placentas well taken care of, the percentage of those who will grow up to become unruly will be infinitesimal. Maybe just three percent of them will end up with negative behaviour. If a baby’s placenta is well taken care of, it will reflect in his or her behaviour. “If a baby’s placenta is not well handled, there is tendency that the baby will be behaving like a dog when he grows up. If the baby is a male, he will become a womaniser while a female will be jumping from one man to another.”

Government’s recognition of traditional medicine, a boost
He however regretted that modernisation has relegated and devalue such beliefs and traditions. Nevertheless, he finds solace in the recognition being given to traditional medicine by the government now, adding that there were some orthodox medicines that have side effects when used for certain ailments but when traditional drugs were used for same ailments they would not have similar effect.

“Why we get high patronage is because after childbirth, we don’t have to start administering drugs on the baby and the mother because all the necessary drugs would have been administered to the mother during pregnancy. So, if the delivery was safe, how do you convince such mothers not to patronise traditional birth attendants? “But because of civilisation, some people detest taking herbs.

This is why we are having some health challenges that were alien to us in the days of our forefathers. But now that the government has given us recognition, things are getting better. There are so many ailments now compared to what our forefathers experienced during their time.

In their time, they had herbs that they would use in the morning, the one in the afternoon and a different one at night. They were as fit as fiddle. They looked younger than their age. But now a 30-year-old man looks older than his age because of what we now consume.” He said if the government provided the enabling environment for traditional doctors to display their dexterity on roots and herbs, most of the diseases would be cured.

Placenta could be used for diabolical means
He admitted that if placenta could be used for positive things, it presupposes that same could be used for diabolical means, adding that “but our own medicine is to give lives to children because that is what we inherited from our fathers.” Raheem said before he could use a placenta to prepare medicine, “the father of the baby must be present so as to allay is fear.”

Why placenta can come before baby during childbirth
When asked if a placenta could be kept in the same room a baby is kept at home before it is buried, Raheem sounded ambivalent. But said if the parents brought a vehicle to pick the baby, “what we usually advise is that the placenta should be put in the vehicle before the baby boarded it.”

“Taking the placenta to the vehicle before the baby boarded it could have two implications. If the woman became pregnant again, during labour, the placenta can come before the baby if they did not follow this procedure. This is not to say that the placenta will kill the baby,” he added. He said because people now neglect tradition, it is now a common occurrence for placenta to come before the baby.

“ “Orthodox medicine may not consider this as important. But our findings show that if the process is not adhered to, when next the woman becomes pregnant, the baby will sit on top of the placenta and one of the consequences is that before the expected delivery date, the woman may be bleeding because the placenta will open. But when we see such situation, we know what to do in a traditional way that will correct the abnormality without carrying out any surgery,” Raheem said.

Society, culture and belief
Burying placentas is not limited to African societies alone. Although in the Western world, the practice is to incinerate it. In New Zealand, the Maori bury their babies’ placentas “to emphasise the relationship between humans and the earth. In Navajo, the placenta and umbilical cord are buried at a special place, particularly if the baby is a stillbirth.
In Cambodia and Costa Rica burying placenta is hinged on the belief that it will ensure that the health of the baby and mother are guaranteed. For the Aymara tribe of Bolivia, placenta can be buried in a secret place if a mother dies during childbirth so that her spirit will not return to kill the baby.

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Posted: at 18-07-2015 07:48 AM (8 years ago) | Addicted Hero
- Ritabrenice at 18-07-2015 08:26 AM (8 years ago)
Nice long note
Posted: at 18-07-2015 08:26 AM (8 years ago) | Gistmaniac
- SOGaiya at 18-07-2015 09:45 AM (8 years ago)
My eyes are flicky is dis a bad omen or too lng story of tradition
Posted: at 18-07-2015 09:45 AM (8 years ago) | Gistmaniac
- royalty2008 at 18-07-2015 11:49 AM (8 years ago)
Yorubas with barbaric believe
When would they change?
Posted: at 18-07-2015 11:49 AM (8 years ago) | Upcoming
- dareper at 18-07-2015 11:51 AM (8 years ago)
Posted: at 18-07-2015 11:51 AM (8 years ago) | Hero
- Estheraremu at 18-07-2015 02:15 PM (8 years ago)
Posted: at 18-07-2015 02:15 PM (8 years ago) | Upcoming
- PoliticxGuru at 18-07-2015 02:54 PM (8 years ago)
is it in the Bible to bury placenta?Huh?Huh??
Posted: at 18-07-2015 02:54 PM (8 years ago) | Hero
- beneno at 18-07-2015 07:17 PM (8 years ago)
Posted: at 18-07-2015 07:17 PM (8 years ago) | Addicted Hero
- echeeche at 18-07-2015 07:53 PM (8 years ago)
I will be back
Posted: at 18-07-2015 07:53 PM (8 years ago) | Hero
- winace at 18-07-2015 08:36 PM (8 years ago)
Its not only yorubas dat bury placenta. Every tribe I have cum across it even some hausas dat I kn.
Posted: at 18-07-2015 08:36 PM (8 years ago) | Addicted Hero
- Olalany at 19-07-2015 01:49 PM (8 years ago)
Quote from: winace on 18-07-2015 08:36 PM
Its not only yorubas dat bury placenta. Every tribe I have cum across it even some hausas dat I kn.
Thank you Winnas, you had spoken and you spoke well. Why everything has to be generated to some sect? Straight if attached to any group of tribe, it's tradition. Shikena.
Posted: at 19-07-2015 01:49 PM (8 years ago) | Upcoming
- omalichris at 19-07-2015 10:01 PM (8 years ago)
How do you expect me to finish dis long story, maybe by the end of Buharis tenure.
Posted: at 19-07-2015 10:01 PM (8 years ago) | Newbie
- elchymo at 13-08-2015 01:02 PM (8 years ago)
Wat a tradition Roll Eyes
Posted: at 13-08-2015 01:02 PM (8 years ago) | Hero