“You EAT your PLACENTA?!” Well, I encapsulate so yes AND no. Here’s what you should know about using your placenta after birth:
There’s not quality research proving that ingesting your placenta will lead to benefits. Many birth workers are trying to get that done. Until then, we just have anecdotal reports from women who believe in the process. They believe that placenta:
- Rebalances Hormones: aids in balancing out the emotional postpartum rollercoaster and decreases rates and/or intensity of “baby blues”
- Speeds Up/ Improves Post-Partum Recovery: increases energy levels, less post-partum bleeding, and helps your uterus contract back to normal more quickly
- Restores Nutrients Lost During Birth: specifically iron and protein
- Increases Milk Supply/Production
You can see why even one of these side effects might have women saying “Tell me more!”
After reading more and talking to many NORMAL women who had chosen this option it came down to three things for me. First, I knew the people who would be processing my placenta. I trusted in their motivation, training, and methods. Secondly, I think we can learn a lot from what animals do instinctively- like consume their placentas. My final decision maker was this: what if I’m wrong? What if it is all the placebo effect? OK. If it means I feel happier, am up and moving sooner, or have a positive start to our nursing relationship: sign me up.
Let your healthcare provider know before birth that you want your placenta, otherwise it’s considered medical waste and will be thrown out. They’ll store it until the person you hired comes to get it. Many midwives or doulas provide this service.
There are 3 main ways women choose to use their placentas:
Edibles: You can eat your placenta many ways, even making it into chocolates. Fruit smoothies are popular because they pack in lots of other nutrients, help mom get a turbo-boost of benefits immediately after birth, and the fruit overpowers any placenta taste. My first doula did a blind taste test with her placenta smoothies. Neither she nor her husband could tell which smoothie contained placenta.
Pills: If that had you dry heaving, placenta encapsulation might be more your style. A trained placenta encapsulator will process your placenta until it’s a powder. The powder is filled in pill capsules you take like any other pill. The placenta never even touches mom’s tongue! You’ll take these daily. The bigger your placenta, the more pills you’ll have. Your encapsulator gives you dosage instructions. I stored mine in the fridge, right next to my husband’s beer. To each his own.
Tinctures or Salves: Tinctures use a little bit of your placenta and alcohol to create a longer lasting product. Since it takes a few weeks to make, this is usually done in addition to encapsulation. During times of transition, stress, or hormonal imbalance, mom just squeezes a few drops of tincture into water and drinks it.
Salves are rubbed in to promote healing or improve the look of skin. Think that’s nasty? Check the ingredients on some of your high end skin products. Yep, that’s sheep placenta. Might as well use your own brand! Salves double as diaper rash cream as long as any essential oils you add in are baby-safe.
Did It Work?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never not encapsulated my placenta, so I can’t personally compare it. I never experienced mood swings, “baby blues”, or low energy after either of my births. People tend to find this extra impressive because the second birth was a surrogacy birth, so after I delivered, I didn’t have a newborn or nursing to help balance out my hormones. I was prescribed an iron supplement because of low iron levels after that same birth, but my blood work improved enough after only taking the placenta that I didn’t ever have to fill that prescription. My milk came in quickly after both births.
The biggest testament to my placenta came from my husband. Yes, the same one who suggested that I keep it a secret the first time. When I asked him about encapsulating for the second pregnancy he acted like it was a non-issue. Of course I would encapsulate- what a silly question!
It’s understandable if your first reaction to using placenta for postpartum care is shock. I get it. But, hopefully now you’ll have a better idea of what motivated that mom who IS. She’s just trying to make one of the most trying times in her life a little easier. Focus on the motivation behind it all and try to let go of the logistics.
Let’s make a deal, I won’t judge you for throwing away a perfectly good placenta if you won’t judge me for eating mine!