Placenta Pills – why do it?

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!!

17 Comments

  1. Nikki Ausdemore wrote:

    Thank you for writing another informative blog Stephanie. And thank you for passing the trade of placenta encapsulation on to me. You’re the best!

    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  2. Erica wrote:

    I clicked on the link and it just said the webpage is not found. I’m interested in this but can’t get to the site! Do you know another way to get to it?

    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  3. elfanie wrote:

    What site are you trying to get to?

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  4. Amy Lynn Drorbaugh wrote:

    If you have had PPD in the past don’t think about it…JUST DO IT! It was the best money I’ve ever spent in my life! No depression at all, I stopped bleeding in 1 week, I healed way faster than my other births and I was so happy. I finally got to enjoy my baby’s first weeks of life. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. One day when my baby was 3-4 weeks old I had a bad day and was on the couch crying and my husband asked me, “Did you take your placenta this morning.” I glared at him and then sheepishly admitted, “No.” LOL!

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  5. Erica wrote:

    The postpartum wellness on the left hand side. I click on it and it just says webpage not found.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  6. elfanie wrote:

    I just clicked on the link…worked fine for me…

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  7. Heather wrote:

    Postpartum Wellness link is not working for me, either.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  8. elfanie wrote:

    try clicking again in a few minutes (there was a glitch that I noticed) and if you still are having trouble getting to that page, email me and I’ll look into it further..
    elfanie@soderblom.net

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  9. sara wrote:

    I am wondering- how much blood is in the placenta? I refuse blood transfusions and blood products due to my religious beliefs; would placenta encapsulation involve ingesting any blood?

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  10. elfanie wrote:

    Sara:
    Are you JW? If so….it’s my understanding that it’s receiving blood products from OTHERS that is an issue due to the sacredness of the blood to the body….but any blood in a placenta would be your OWN blood, therefore exempt from concern for a JW. That’s my understanding…..

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  11. sara wrote:

    Hi again. Yes I am a Jehovah’s Witness 🙂 It is true that we don’t take blood products from others, but there is also the issue of not taking in our own blood once it has left the body. For instance, some JW’s conscience will allow the cell-saver machine in surgery, where the blood is recycled and then returned to the body. Even in this case, however, the blood never really leaves the patient in that it is kept in a continuous closed circuit. The issue is not only with other people’s blood but the taking in of ANY blood after it has left the body (mine or someone else’s). I was wondering, then, how much blood is actually contained in the placenta.Is there any evidence of any human cultures having a practice of eating the placenta that we know of?

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  12. elfanie wrote:

    There would be blood…but it would be minimal. It would be similar to eating any organ from any animal – so, like a beef liver.
    as for evidence of any human culture consuming placenta…yes, there are, although not in pill forms. Usually the woman either consumes it raw…or it is made into a stew that the entire village consumes as a way of welcoming the baby into the village…

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink
  13. sara wrote:

    Interesting! I will have to do some research on it. If the cord had been allowed to pulse there would be less blood than otherwise, I’m guessing. I wish I could have taken my placenta home just to keep the doctor from sending it off to pathology and charging me for it…(there was a part that was infarcted, but daughter was born at 40 weeks and healthy, so what were they going to find out anyway?)

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  14. elfanie wrote:

    actually, since the cord and all membranes are removed….the amount of blood in the cord is irrelevant.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  15. sara wrote:

    That’s kind of what I was thinking- like you said, it would be like eating any other organ.

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  16. Sarah wrote:

    I’m here by way of Gloria’s blog. Appreciated your comment on her “not in labour” post.

    Quick two-fold question: could a placenta show evidence of a twin who miscarried around 12 weeks(where a second cord was attached) and would this likely be noticeable to the midwife, or would someone have to really study the placenta to see it?

    Oh, and while on the subject, what of a vanishing fraternal twin? Would there be any evidence of a second placenta?

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  17. Ruth M. wrote:

    I saw a comment on another blog post about placenta pills helping with after pains. I had them even with my first baby, which I guess most women do not? They came as a complete shock because no one told me anything about them! Not fun! So with baby #2 I took a bunch of ibuprofen to help. I really dislike taking Any drugs and would much rather take encapsulated placenta. And I had ppd with both, but 2nd was Much better because I took vitamin D, or hormone D. The first time I didn’t realize I had it either, until my mom came to visit. Thank you for your help!

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

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