Women’s experiences of birthing their placenta

Australian researchers have carried out an important study looking at women’s decisions about, and experiences of birthing their placenta.

The participating women included “eleven women who had expectant management, eight who had active management and one who was unsure. Participants were interviewed in-depth and the data analysed using thematic analysis” and “Seven themes were identified in the data relating to before, during and after the birth of the placenta. Before birth themes focused on making decisions and included ‘doing the research’ and ‘natural birth’. During the birth of the placenta themes were ‘boundaries of time’, ‘focusing on baby’ and ‘sensations’. After the birth themes consisted of ‘looking’ and ‘keeping’.” (Reed et al 2019).

One of the best things about studies like this one, which took a woman-centred feminist approach and focused very much on listening to and retaining the voices of the women themselves, is that the authors tend to include lots of quotes from the women. That is the case here and, because the paper is open access, you can read the women’s words for yourself. I would thoroughly recommend that you do, as it’s so interesting to hear about their viewpoints and experiences.

Now available! A guide to the different approaches to birthing the placenta. Includes discussion of evidence, experience and the wider issues. For women and birth workers alike!

Some of the conclusions make for really interesting discussion points. The authors concluded that, “Most of the women considered a physiological birth of the placenta to be an intrinsic element of natural birth. Active management was considered to be an intervention used if complications occurred. In contrast, women who chose active management did not consider the placenta to be an important element of natural birth, and chose active management in order to prevent complications. Decisions about birthing the placenta were informed by Internet sources and previous personal experiences rather than care providers. During the birth of the placenta care providers managed the boundaries of time whilst women focused on their baby. The sensations women described were consistent across both types of management. Women valued seeing their placenta and having the opportunity to keep it, and placenta encapsulation was popular. The findings of this study contribute the experiences of women to the body of knowledge informing practice during the birth of the placenta.” (Reed et al 2019).

You can access the study here.


Reed R, Gabriel L and Kearney L (2019). Birthing the placenta: women’s decisions and experiences. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 19:140.
Photo by Chris Ensey on Unsplash

Want to stay up to date and get regular updates on birth-related research and thinking sent free to your inbox?

Sign up to my newsletter list.

Books to help you become informed and make the decisions that are right for you…