You may have heard about placenta consumption, placenta encapsulation, or placentophagy. Placenta encapsulation is not new, but it is becoming more and more popular, and its supporters are increasingly willing to share their success with others. As the practice of placenta encapsulation becomes more common, maybe someone you know will try it and tell you about it. However, like every other part of the birth process, the decisions surrounding your placenta are yours to make, and you should make this decision after considering all of the facts available. In this post I try to lay out all the facts about placenta encapsulation, but it is up to you and your birth partner to decide if placenta consumption or encapsulation is for you. If you have any questions after viewing this information, feel free to contact us here!
What is the placenta?
The placenta is an organ, just like the heart, or liver. The placenta starts developing when the fertilized ovum travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus. There, the outer layer of this cell bundle attaches itself to the wall of the uterus and forms the placenta, linking the rapidly developing baby to the mother and her nutrients. The placenta then grows with the baby throughout the pregnancy and is birthed from the mother’s body during the third stage of labour in vaginal delivery, or removed completely by doctors during a cesarean section. The placenta performs many vital functions as the baby grows: it brings nutrients to the developing child, removes harmful waste, prevents the mother’s immune system from rejecting the baby, and manages hormones vital for fetal health. Additionally, the placenta acts as a reservoir for blood to ensure that the infant is protected from any rapid changes in blood pressure.
The placenta is an extremely important organ. It is the only organ that can be grown and completely removed as many times as necessary. Other mammals, like humans, carry their young to term and give birth to a placenta. Scientists have long noted that these mammals, unlike humans, typically completely consume their placenta. Scientists have a few of theories as to why most mammals eat the placenta almost immediately after birthing it. The most common theory speculates that the animals want to remove any evidence of a birth to prevent attracting the attention of predators. Another theory maintains that animals eat the placenta to restore nutrients to the body after giving birth. Whatever the reason for mammals’ consumption of the placenta, humans are among the only mammals that don’t regularly eat the placenta after giving birth.
However, while it isn’t a regular occurrence, there are human cultures that have been eating the placenta for hundreds of years. These groups include the Chinese, the Argentinean Native Americans, and the Chaga people of Tanzania. Each of these groups eats the placenta to improve health, and each advocates a slightly different method for preparing the placenta. The traditional Chinese medicinal texts give detailed descriptions of how to prepare the placenta, and the health benefits that occur when the organ is consumed. These methods are the most commonly followed process for placenta encapsulation today, although there are slight modern variations, such as preparing the placenta raw.
How does placenta encapsulation work?
Most doulas can prepare the placenta raw or using the traditional Chinese method. Regardless of which style you prefer, the end result will be a small capsule that is clean and easy to take. This modern and efficient process is called placenta encapsulation and is gaining widespread acceptance from mothers around the world. Placenta encapsulation starts when the placenta is birthed from the mother’s body. The placenta (sometimes called the afterbirth) is placed in a clean, sealed container in a refrigerator. Your doula will then come and take the placenta to a specialized area for the placenta encapsulation process. A well-equipped doula will have sterilized professional equipment and a careful process to ensure that a mix up with a different placenta is impossible. If you are concerned about a mixup, or simply wish to witness the process, many doulas will prepare the placenta encapsulation in your own home.
To prepare the placenta for encapsulation using the traditional Chinese method, the doula will first thoroughly wash the placenta, then steam it with a lemon, ginger and chili. Then, the placenta is washed again and dehydrated. When it has been dehydrated, the placenta is ground into a fine powder using a mechanical grinder and placed into capsules using an encapsulator. The entire process takes 1-2 days and results in 100-2o0 odourless, tasteless capsules that can be stored in a cupboard and are simple to take. When your capsules are completed, your doula will recommend the amount to take. Generally doulas recommend taking 2-6 pills per day for the first two weeks following pregnancy followed by 1-2 pills per day for the next few weeks. If properly stored in the freezer, the capsules will last a long time, so if you wish to save some of them for use later, you can.
At KellyMaslen.com, we offer both the traditional Chinese method and the raw method of placenta encapsulation.
The Traditional Chinese Method
The Traditional Chinese Method (TCM) was developed by a midwife named Raven Lang. It is the oldest and most commonly used method of placenta preparation. In the yin/yang Chinese philosophy the raw placenta is considered to be very yin (cold), therefore by steaming the placenta we are adding yang (hot) energy that will help tonify and nourish the postpartum mother.
The placenta is washed and steamed using lemon, ginger and chilli pepper, sliced into thin pieces and placed on parchment paper in the dehydrator on low for approximately 10-24 hours depending on the size of the placenta.
Once the placenta is completely dehydrated, the pieces are ground up into a fine powder using an electric grinder. The ground placenta is then encapsulated in either vegan or gelatin capsules and put in a sterilized jar for your consumption.
This method can take from 24-48 hours.
This method is popular with all types of diets but especially with raw foodists.
As in the Traditional Chinese Method, in the raw method the placenta is washed, then sliced and immediately put in the dehydrator. The dehydrator uses a low temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind the raw method is that drying the placenta at a low temperature maintains the integrity of the nutrients.
This method can take from 48-72 hours.
Here is an interesting video showing some of the process:
What are the benefits of placenta encapsulation?
As mentioned earlier, the placenta serves a vital role in the healthy development of the baby. However, once it leaves the body, it still contains an enormous number of beneficial hormones and a great deal of iron. The mother’s body, after giving birth, has lost a lot of blood and is low on iron. A new mother’s body is also dealing with rapid and drastic hormonal changes triggered by the birth, and is engaged in the process of achieving a post-pregnancy state. Scientists think that these enormous changes, coupled with other factors such as genetics, are the cause of the rapid mood swings mothers face, postpartum depression, and their sense of exhaustion.
The many proponents of placenta encapsulation point to the beneficial hormones and iron present in the placenta as a solution to these problems, as well as a way of increasing milk production and an overall sense of well-being. They also note that many drugs currently supplied to treat low iron, mood-swings, and postpartum depression are likely, not healthy for a child who is breastfeeding. For mothers concerned with chemical drugs indirectly affecting their child, placenta encapsulation is a unique way to experience healing effects using something that is natural.
Scientists have done very little research into the benefits of placenta consumption, but one study has found a link between placenta consumption and increased milk production. Additionally, scientists agree that placenta encapsulation has no negative impacts if prepared properly, and doctors are generally supportive of women who wish to try placenta encapsulation. Critics of the procedure claim that the preparation process removes much of the beneficial hormones and iron content from the placenta and point to the lack of scientific proof behind the health claims. Despite these challenges, most mothers who have used placenta encapsulation are overwhelmingly satisfied with the results.
Remember these six benefits of placenta encapsulation:
Decrease in baby blues and postpartum depression.
Increase and enrich breastmilk.
Increase in energy.
Decrease in lochia, postpartum bleeding.
Decrease iron deficiency.
Decrease insomnia or sleep disorders
How do I choose a reliable placenta encapsulation service?
Choosing the right service to help you with placenta encapsulation is important. It will help you get the most out of your placenta encapsulation while making sure the placenta is prepared safely and professionally, using the correct equipment. Use a doula that has done placenta encapsulation before, as these doulas will have the experience and equipment necessary to complete the procedure. Keep in mind, the correct equipment should be made of hospital grade stainless steel and sanitized with hospital grade sanitizer. The price a doula will charge ranges from $150-300 depending on what procedure or package you have chosen. To ensure your doula has the correct skills, make sure they specialize in both raw and traditional Chinese placenta preparation techniques. Overall, an expert placenta encapsulation service will ensure that the placenta is kept properly stored at the right temperature, and is prepared using the correct method on clean professional equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Placenta Encapsulation
I’m worried to tell anyone I’m thinking of placenta encapsulation. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m gross, or some sort of cannibal. Isn’t this weird?
Many mothers feel this way the first time they try placenta encapsulation. Many mothers also feel grossed out the first time they try and take the placenta capsule. These are normal feelings to have, and in most mothers they go away quickly. The capsules are odourless and tasteless so there is no “grossed out” sensation when taking them after you get past the first couple of times. As for others thinking you are a cannibal, by definition you are not. Cannibalism involves eating another human, and because it is your own placenta, you do not fall under that definition.
Are there any harmful parts to the placenta?
Properly cleaned, there are no harmful parts to the placenta. Doctors do, however, stress that only the mother should use the encapsulated placenta to avoid transferring any blood-born illnesses.
What will my doctor think of my decision?
They will generally be supportive. Most doctors will mention that there is no scientific basis for eating placenta, but there is nothing dangerous in the process.
Will eating the placenta hurt my child?
Many mothers claim substantial benefits from placenta encapsulation, and because it is entirely natural, there will be no harm to your child. If anything, there is evidence to support increased milk production, which is very beneficial to your child.
If you have any questions that haven’t been answered here, please feel free to contact us and ask!
Which method should I chose TCM or Raw?
This is a personal choice, if you find you resonate with Traditional Chinese medicine perhaps you take Chinese herbs or acupuncture then this is the best choice for you. If you have a raw food diet or prefer your placenta dehydrated and not steamed this is the best for you. Whatever decision you make is best for you. We have had much positive feedback on both methods.
What is placenta tincture?
Placenta Tincture is made from a piece of the mother’s own raw placenta after birth, steeping in alcohol making a strong remedy over 6 weeks. It is said that placenta tincture is used for emotional, mental and psychological instability and may also be very beneficial for treating PMS and menopause.
Watch this video to learn more about placenta tincture