E - Encapsulate Your Placenta.
What is placenta encapsulation? What are the benefits? Are there risks? Why should I do it?
First off, let’s discuss what the placenta actually is. I feel like the placenta is not something that most people even think about unless you’re submersed in the birth world or really into natural birth.
So, what is it?
Also referred to as “the tree of life”, the placenta is an organ that is created during childbirth which surrounds the fetus in the womb and allows for the exchange of nutrients, blood, and oxygen with the mother (Placenta). The organ is attached to the fetus via the umbilical cord. It also filters out anything that could be harmful and removes carbon dioxide and waste from baby’s blood. The placenta also produces hormones suck as estrogen and progesterone and passes on antibodies to protect baby after birth (What is the placenta).
The placenta is expelled after birth during the third stage of labor.
Now that we know what the organ is, what is placenta encapsulation?
Placenta encapsulation is an ancient practice commonly found in Chinese medicine but is growing in popularity in the U.S. Specially trained placenta encapsulators will retrieve your placenta after birth and prepare it for you to consume, most commonly as dehydrated in pill form. It is believed that there are numerous health benefits during the postpartum period, menstrual period, and menopause (Placenta).
What are the benefits?
The many possible benefits include oxytocin release, decrease in postpartum depression, increase in iron levels, and supposed increase in milk production (Placenta).
A study found that the iron level in placenta pills account for about 1/4th of the recommended daily intake for breastfeeding women (Dekker). Iron deficiency can result in low milk supply so considering iron levels may be elevated, even if minor, any little bit helps (Bergman).
As for hormones such as oxytocin, 15 out of 17 hormones that were researched were present in the placentas. Levels seemed to be low but the concentrations of progesterone and estradiol could potentially reach levels to effect (Dekker).
In another study, 95% of the 189 women surveyed reported positive outcomes for consuming their placenta. Anecdotal evidence states that consuming the placenta may help ease postpartum depression. With 15% of mothers developing postpartum depression, it seems to be a way to combat it naturally so, why not (Bergman).
Are there risks?
Honestly, placenta encapsulation hasn’t been researched enough to state whether there are significant risks or not. Recently, a CDC report was issued recommending against placenta encapsulation but this was based on ONE baby who became infected with Group B strep after the mother consumed the placenta (McCabe).
A recent study out of UNLV, the largest of its kind, found that there was no harm to babies when the mother consumed the placenta. Interestingly enough, the study also found that women with a history of anxiety and depression were more likely to consume their placenta in order to prevent postpartum depression (McCabe).
Other “risks” are some women report dizziness, headache, and nausea but there’s no hard evidence to support that the placenta is what caused it (Bergman).
Since the placenta acts as a filter, isn’t it toxic?
In one study, there were no toxic levels that could be harmful (Dekker).
So, what’s the bottom line?
There’s no concrete evidence whether it is beneficial or risky to consume the placenta, although the evidence we do have leans more towards beneficial.
If it doesn’t gross you out and you think you may want to give it a go, try it out! I, personally, am taking a placenta tincture after this birth. I know myself and I know that I will not swallow pills so the tincture route is what I chose. Also, the tinctures are said to last about 50 years so, hello menopause relief! We also plan to take what's left of the placentas and bury them in our backyard and plant a lemon tree. There's many ways to honor the placenta if you don't feel like consuming it.
Need a referral to a placenta encapsulator in DFW? Let me know! I’ve got connections!
“Placenta Encapsulation.” Web. http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/placental-encapsulation/. Retrieved 18 Sept 2018.
McCabe, Francis. “Study: Maternal Placenta Consumption Causes No Harm to Newborns.” 3 May 2018. https://www.unlv.edu/news/article/study-maternal-placenta-consumption-causes-no-harm-newborns-0. Web. Retrieved 18 Sept 2018.
Dekker, Rebecca. “Placenta Encapsulation.” 22 Feb 2017. https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-on-placenta-encapsulation/. Web. Retrieved 18 Sept 2018.
Bergman, Hannah. “Benefits and Risks of Placental Encapsulation.” 19 September 2017. https://safebirthproject.com/placental-encapsulation/. Updated 21 April 2018. Web. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
Allesanda received her Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in December 2013. She now lives in North Texas with her husband and three children. As a maternal support practitioner and educator of family sleep and eco-friendly living, she blogs about family sleep, wellness, nutrition, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, holistic health, and parenting.