Placenta painting – the tree of life


I never realised how truly amazing the human body is until I became pregnant. 

I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, I was miserable. It felt to me like an alien invasion.

With my first I threw up till well into my third trimester and also developed severe SPD which put me in a wheelchair at 20 weeks. With my second the sickness only lasted 20 weeks but the SPD did again force me on to crutches.

But it was all worth it and two planned c-sections later I have two wonderful children. 

However, I digress.

I really wish I had kept the placenta from my first pregnancy. I’m not sure what I would have done with it at the time, but it seemed such a shame for it to be regarded as ‘human waste’. When I was pregnant second time round I was adamant I wanted to try to save the placenta.

The conversation with the surgeon went something like this:

Me: ‘If possible, please could I keep the placenta?’

Surgeon: ‘Oh that’s not possible, we have to remove the placenta, if it stays in there it will make you very ill.’

Clearly some crossed wires, and once I had explained that what I meant by ‘keep’ was not to retain inside me (?) but to take home with me, she was all on board.

And so my son was delivered and whilst I was being stitched up, my husband was escorted to the post op room with the baby and a yellow ‘human waste’ bag containing my placenta. I can’t remember which he was more excited about.

Needless to say he was delighted at bringing it home that evening and placing it in the garage freezer and then trying desperately to forget the whole experience.

I knew I wanted to make a print or a painting with it. I had done some googling and there is not really that much out there other than how to dehydrate it and eat it or have it made into vitamins. Eating it was a bit much, even for me, but one use I did like the idea of was to ‘plant’ it under a tree.

So 5 weeks post partum my placenta was defrosting in the kitchen sink.  

I really marvel at the placenta- I actually find them beautifully amazing. I gave it a good rinse and dried it ( yes this is possible with a bit of kitchen towel).

Here it is in all its glory. 

My main observations: firstly for some reason I thought it would be bigger, I mean it would hardly feed four… Secondly I was delighted at how much it looked like a tree.

I had bought two large stretched canvases from the range – a bit bigger than A3, but not as large as A2. I had primed them by giving them a couple of coats of emulsion- the same emulsion from the wall that I wanted to hang them on which is Wickes matt paint in porcelain.

For the first ‘print’ I carefully lifted and placed the placenta on top of the canvas. This I would immediately learn was a mistake as as I lifted it off the canvas I splattered blood everywhere.

Even though it wasn’t a clean print, I now really like the effect. Obviously it was a bright red when first printed but now has faded to an orangey brown and looks just like a watercolour.  

Next I dried off the placenta again as much as possible and painted it with an even layer of gold acrylic paint using a paintbrush. I picked up a small bottle in Wilkos for around £2, but you can get from anywhere that sells arts and craft supplies.

This time I lifted the canvas and placed on top of the placenta and gently rubbed from the back, careful not to smudge it. Lifting it off gently gave me a nice clean print. 

I then titled and dated them and let them dry.

Here they are on the wall in my son’s nursery.


We then decided to plant the placenta under a wisteria in the garden, and I can tell you that it is thriving! Best fertiliser ever.

If you are thinking of doing this yourself I would absolutely encourage you to. I thought I would be really grossed out by it but it was surprisingly ok. If you want any more info or have any questions – do get in touch. You can either comment or tweet me or email me – details on my ‘about’ page.


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