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Encapsulating Your Placenta

I have had two pregnancies, two successful births, and two postpartum periods. My first postpartum period resulted in one of the darkest depressions I have ever experienced. The second was completely the opposite, so much so that it is staggering. What did I do differently the second time that caused me to be in awe of my new child versus feeling like I was spiraling into the deepest, darkest hole imaginable and that danger could be around every corner? I ingested my placenta in a pill form. You read that right, I ate my placenta.

Guess what? I'm not the only one. The popularity of the practice of placentophagy is increasing exponentially. Women are finding the benefits of ingesting their placenta to be invaluable, and are ignoring conventional thinking that it has no benefits and is only medical waste. Although few studies have been done on the effects of placentophagy, in one study, interviews were done with women who had recently ingested their placentas after giving birth. "When asked to rate how positive the placentophagy experience was on a Likert scale, the majority of women reported that placentophagy was a very positive experience (75%) or positive experience (20%). Four percent of participants described it as slightly positive and 1% of participants selected not positive. Nearly all participants (98%) indicated that they would participate in placentophagy again." (1) 98% is a statistical number that is rarely seen. Having the knowledge of this percentage along with my own experience and the experience of my clients, I would say that there probably something to this placentophagy thing, despite the opposition.

During pregnancy, we hear so much about how to take care of ourselves and our unborn babies. We get advice from our practitioners, family, friends and even, on occasion, strangers on a range of topics such as what to eat and not to eat, how to exercise and what pre-natal supplements to take. Rarely do we or others question how we plan to be supported during the postpartum period. As natural as pregnancy and birth are, these events take a tremendous toll on a woman's physical body, hormonal balance and emotional wellbeing. This can result in a very turbulent experience for the mother, baby and the rest of the family after the baby is born. After birth, there is always a ripple effect that usually originates with the mother and tends to permeate everyone in the family. Making this ripple as positive as possible results in a much less stressful situation and a happier family. And really, what is more important than the happiness of the family? We need all the help and resources we can obtain during this time. I personally feel that taking the placenta pills is one of the best things a new mother can do for herself.

I was devastated that I was unable to take the pills after my firstborn. Somewhere deep inside me, I knew I had missed an opportunity to heal faster, balance myself and have a profound source of support. Not only was I greatly affected by this depression, but naturally my husband and my new son were as well. Three and half years later when I had my daughter and was able to take all my placenta pills, I did not experience any depression at all! The difference in my two postpartum experiences was like night and day. I was so inspired by this difference that I decided to provide this service for other women, and a year after my daughter was born, I began to encapsulate placentas myself.

The positive effects of ingesting your placenta go beyond prevention of postpartum depression. The pills will give you energy, boost your immune system, balance and stabilize your hormones and your moods, replenish your iron, provide key minerals and vitamins, and enhance lactation and milk production. The hormones will also remind your uterus that it knows how to heal and will stimulate your endocrine system, especially the hypothalamus gland to bring your body back to homeostasis and regulation. This is done by maintaining cortisol levels.

Specifically, placenta pills have been known to:

  • Increase general energy

  • Allow a quicker return to health after birth

  • Increase production of breast milk

  • Decrease likelihood of baby blues and postnatal depression

  • Decrease likelihood of iron deficiency

  • Decrease likelihood of insomnia or sleep disorders

  • Decrease the length of time and amount of bleeding after birth

The placenta contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6 and is rich in iron and protein, which is useful to women recovering from childbirth. A more complete list of the nutritional properties of the placenta can be found in (2). The placenta’s hormonal and nutritional make-up is completely unique to the mother. No prescription, vitamin, or herbal supplement can do what one placenta pill can. Encapsulation gives women an option who may feel uncomfortable with other methods of ingesting this powerful organ or want to reap the benefits of the placenta over a longer period of time. Powdered placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries, and has also been used to help women through the process of menopause as well as postpartum. Doctors of oriental medicine today feel that placenta ingestion is not only good for the mother postpartum, but that it also places her on a more healthy trajectory that can last the rest of her life.

Now over five years later (and four years after providing placenta encapsulation services), I'm still learning of more of its benefits to women. I've never felt better about any other work that I have done and LOVE to hear how much this has helped my clients. The placenta is not only a gift to the child during the pregnancy, but a gift to the mother as well after birth. As the current paradigm shifts to trusting our bodies, we will be able to realize the full potential of practices that come to us naturally during the childbearing years. I strongly believe that ingesting the placenta and its benefits will be a significant transformation for mothers, families and society in whole.

Jodi Selander , Allison Cantor , Sharon M. Young & Daniel C. Benyshek (2013): Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 52:2, 93-115

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