Placenta encapsulation – what’s that?
I started learning about placenta encapsulation about 12 years ago (around 1998 if memory serves me correctly) and have seen it be miraculous for some people.
Let me back up a bit…what, exactly, IS placenta encapsulation and why would you want to do it? Placenta encapsulation is where the “meat” of the placenta (cotyledons) are removed from the membranes (fetal side). It is then dehydrated, pulverized into a powder and put into capsules to make pills to be taken as medicine on a daily basis after the birth of a baby.
Why in the world would someone want to do such a thing? Well, other than camels, humans are the only animal that doesn’t consume their placenta. Even herbivores consume their placentas!
There are several theories as to why they do that – from protection from predators (to remove evidence of the birth so as not to attract predators) to hunger to bonding with the offspring.
However, even high predators with no natural enemies other than man will eat their placentas. Hunger doesn’t explain herbivores consuming it – and bonding with offspring is difficult to argue when often placentas come hours after the birth and they have already nursed and shown to parent the offspring.
One argument that has been made that seems logical is that it has healing properties and can aid in recovery from the birth itself. High levels of oxytocin help contract the uterus, reducing bleeding, as well as helping milk supply. HCG in the placenta goes down slowly when it’s consumed, rather than a stark plummet that happens when we do not. High iron levels help recover from an anemia that occurs after a challenging birth. The theory is that consuming your placenta (in whatever form you find you are able to) offers tremendous health benefits after the birth physically – and emotionally.
One of the most common reasons women choose to consume their placenta (most commonly in pill form, but occasionally ‘fresh’, like in a smoothie) is for the reported benefits of warding off postpartum depression. There is ample anecdotal evidence showing a drastic reduction in the risk of PPD, with no known risks. I have known more than a few women who had severe, debilitating postpartum depression with previous babies, who cycled through various antidepressant medications while weighing the risks/benefits with breastfeeding – whose previous experience was so traumatic that it was debatable whether they were willing to risk it again by having another baby. Out of desperation, despite the cultural taboo to placentophagy (eating placenta), they chose to give it a try.
And reported back to me REMARKABLE results with it! Little to no postpartum depression, remarkable improvements in the entire postpartum period – leaving them a true believer!
I have known 2 people who took placenta pills who reported having ‘hormonal headaches’ – therefore they reduced (or stopped) taking them. Simple as that!
Now, if you want to go for what is truly “in nature”, obviously lions and tigers and bears (oh my) aren’t in the middle of the fields with a dehydrator making pills after they give birth. However, for those of us who are barely able to stomach (pun intended) the idea of even talking about placentophagy (consuming placenta) – having someone else make placenta pills for you and swallowing a pill is an excellent solution/option. All of the benefits with none of the icky factor.
We have someone affiliated with our practice that can make placenta pills for you if it’s something you desire – just look to the left hand side of this page and click on “postpartum wellness”. If, however, you don’t live in Arizona – it is not too challenging to commit to making your own and I’m sure that Nikki (known as “the placenta lady” at Nurturing Hearts) would be a great resource for instructions.
Little known risk, huge potential benefits….it truly is something worth considering!!