Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe anything involving the word “placenta” causes you to dry heave. Contrary to how it sounds, placenta encapsulation does not involve enshrining your organ for later sacrificial rituals. In fact, it’s nothing like that at all.
Placenta encapsulation is a process in which, immediately following the birth of your baby, your placenta is dehydrated and ground into a course powder, which is then placed into small capsules that look exactly just like any other vitamin or supplement we might take. Mothers then consume these capsules to help them rebound from the birth, avoid postpartum blues, and boost their milk supply.
Being as skeptical and squeamish as I usually am, I was probably the last person I ever thought would try this unorthodox idea. But after researching the benefits, and knowing that I need all the help I can get postpartum, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try. Fortunately for me, it was an investment that paid off. My postpartum healing after taking my placenta pills was 100% smoother and easier than with my previous two births. Anecdotes are not evidence, but for me, I felt that it worked.
WHY would a mother want to consume her placenta in this manner?
The placenta contains a massive amount of crucial hormones and iron that leave our body once the placenta is born. Humans (at least in the Western world) are one of the few land mammals that do not regularly eat their placentas – a practice known as placentophagia. But consuming the placenta in any form can help new mothers maintain their hormone and iron levels in the few weeks after the birth, which can speed healing and help curb fatigue and anxiety in these new moms.
How does placentophagia assist postpartum healing?
The placenta contains at least a half dozen hormones and other natural substances that help the body to recover from birth. Some boost immunity in the new mom, some help lower stress levels, and others encourage the uterus to shrink back to size, which can help prevent excessive postpartum bleeding.
How can placentophagia boost milk supply?
One study showed a very positive increase in milk production for moms consuming dehydrated placenta, probably because it contains Oxytocin, which is responsible for the milk ejection reflex, or “let down.”
How can placentophagia help curb postpartum mood problems?
Research published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that postpartum iron-deficiency (anemia) can cause postpartum depression and anxiety, but let’s remember; the placenta contains a huge boost of easily-absorbable iron. Research published in The Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that fatigue is one of the major causes of postpartum depression, but mothers report that consuming the placenta can boost energy levels. Though few scientific studies have been spent on placentophagia itself, the combined existing research suggests that ingesting the iron-rich placenta may be a good first line of defense against postpartum mood problems. This is not to suggest that placentophagia is a cure or treatment for established mental health problems, nor should it replace any medically-prescribed treatment – it may only be one tool in helping to curb or limit postpartum depressive symptoms.
How do I get my placenta encapsulated?
While some mothers may choose to dehydrate and encapsulate their own placentas, many more are hiring out the work to a placenta encapsulation professional. A placenta professional will normally have special training and equipment to process the placenta, and should be following the OSHA safety guidelines for exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Most often, the placenta professional in your area is probably a doula, midwife, or other birth pro who works closely with birthing mothers.
Generally your placenta professional will retrieve your placenta from your birth place, and process it in their workspace on special equipment reserved for placentas only. In other cases, the placenta professional may process the placenta in your own home, however some new mothers may not appreciate this because the processing can be quite odorous. Before hiring a placenta professional, ask them where they process placentas, and choose the method that you prefer. The placenta pills are then usually returned to the mother within 48 hours and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
What are the methods to encapsulation?
There are two main methods or recipes for encapsulation, and before hiring a professional, ask which methods they offer so you can choose the one you prefer. Each recipe has pros and cons.
RAW Method: This method delivers the highest potency of the pills because it is not cooked before it’s dried, but these pills expire after approximately one year of freezer storage.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Method: This recipe creates a pill that can be stored indefinitely with proper refrigeration, but is less potent than the raw form.