“Encapsulate your placenta? Are you insane?” was the reaction I was expecting from most people when I divulged that I planned to consume my placenta after birth, but to my surprise, most people were supportive and curious. And if they hadn’t been, that was fine, too. This is my body and these are my decisions and what works for one may not work for others, especially when it comes to birth. But for me, for meeee, placenta encapsulation was intriguing and it was something I wanted to do.
What exactly is placentophagy, or placenta encapsulation? Before we dive into that, let’s quickly chat about the placenta. The placenta is the only organ that belongs to two people at the same time. It literally contains half the mother’s blood and half the baby’s blood, and is unique to every mother and baby. The placenta acts as a barrier between the two separate bodies, transferring oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood to the baby, and has the ability to pick and choose what it takes from the mother based on the baby’s needs at that moment. It also produces a cocktail of hormones necessary to sustain a pregnancy and grow a healthy baby, including progesterone, estrogen, cortisone, interferon, POEF (placenta opioid enhancing factor), oxytocin, and HPL (human placental lactogen). Aside from sustaining the pregnancy, these hormones fight stress, stimulate the immune system, stimulate iron production, lessen bleeding, and stimulate mammary function and milk production. Pretty incredible, right?
Now, back to placentophagy/placenta encapsulation. It’s the practice of ingesting the placenta after it has been steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into pills that resemble vitamins. Placentophagy is not something new. It’s a tradition that is centuries old, practiced most often in Chinese medicine but the ‘evidence’ supporting placenta consumption is largely anecdotal and historical. These are the suspected benefits:
Decrease in baby blues and postpartum depression
Increase in supply and quality of breastmilk
Increase in energy
Decrease in lochia, postpartum bleeding
Decrease iron deficiency
Decrease insomnia or sleep disorders
Decreases postpartum “night sweats”
Increased release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to normal size and encourages bonding with the infant
Increase in CRH, a stress-reducing hormone
While not scientifically proven, these benefits were extremely appealing to me, especially after talking to a handful of women who had done it (including women who had multiple births and different postpartum experiences when they did take it vs. didn’t (i.e. suffered from depression)) and who swear by it. Beyond that, of the more than 4,000 species of placental mammals, there are only a handful that do not regularly engage in placentophagy. That means lions, tigers, bears, giraffes, deer, etc. all instinctively eat their placenta. When we birth the placenta, all the hormones and nutrients produced by the placenta leave our body and it can take months for the brain and body to level out the hormones. If most mammals instinctively counteract this by eating their placentas, why shouldn’t we?
To get my placenta encapsulated I worked with a Certified Professional Midwife named Allegra Hill from Radiant Transitions who specializes in encapsulation and charges $300. After delivering my placenta, we put it in a cooler on ice and within the hour she picked it up to start the process. She also makes tinctures, but I passed on those; pills were enough for me! Two days later, she dropped off the pills and suggested I take 2-4 per day. And so I did and now I’m two months out, almost out of pills (which I’m sad about) and am happy to report that I feel pretty darn good. I haven’t had issues with postpartum depression (knock on wood), breastmilk supply is excellent and energy is up.
What about you, what are your thoughts on encapsulation?