Your Placenta....It's What's Good for You!!

“You ate your what?!?!”

“Ewwww….that’s gross!!  We’re not animals!”                  

“What are the benefits of doing that?”     

“How do you eat it?”

“Do you have to have a home birth to do that?”

“How do I find someone to help me with it and what does it cost?”

These are the questions/statements I hear most often when people find out that not only do I encapsulate placentas, but that I ate my own!  When people hear about placenta encapsulation, they usually react in one of several ways: 1) Curiosity, 2) Disgust, or 3) Fascination.  I’m going to answer the questions that many people ask when they want to learn more, and then you can decide for yourself if placenta encapsulation is right for you!

“You ate your what?!”

My placenta!  It’s the organ that my body created specifically for the purpose of keeping my child alive and producing beneficial hormones during the months of pregnancy.  It’s actually pretty incredible if you think about it.  The placenta consists of two sides, an amniotic sac and an umbilical cord. 

This first picture is of the fetal side that your baby snuggles up to (his first pillow! ;-) ).  See why they call it the tree of life?  The placenta looks like the branches with all the blood vessels, and the umbilical cord is the trunk of the tree.

The second picture is also of the fetal side, but closer and in color so you can the blood vessels running through it to the cord and into your baby, carrying nutrients, blood and oxygen.   Aren’t the colors pretty and vibrant?

This third picture is of the maternal side that attaches to your uterus.  Nutrients, blood and oxygen come from your body, into your uterus and then transfer to the fetal side through this part.  It definitely looks more “meaty” and less attractive, but it’s important nonetheless!

The fourth picture is of the amniotic sac stretched out so that you can see where your baby was living for the past months (except imagine there was no hole and it was filled with fluid like a big water balloon).  Those amniotic membranes are so strong they can withstand the weight of a 1-2 pound placenta being hung from it like that without breaking!

“Ewwww…..that’s gross!!  We’re not animals!”

Well, actually, we are.  We’re mammals, and oddly enough, the only ones who don’t regularly consume their placentas after birth.  I get that many people think it’s weird and gross to eat a placenta, but no more so than eating organ meat or drinking milk from another animal.  And, you get the added benefit of knowing that your placenta is safe, healthy, free of disease and hormones (so long as you are….it’s only going to be as healthy as you grew it to be). 

“What are the benefits of doing that?”     

Placentophagy (the act of eating a placenta), while relatively new to the United States, has been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since the 1500s.  The Chinese regularly use placentas in their medicines for treatment of many reproductive problems or disorders.  While there have been no large human studies performed, animal studies have shown the benefits of ingesting placentas and there are many women who claim it has helped them greatly as well. 

The claimed benefits of placentophagy are:

  • helping to balance hormone levels and reduce feelings of depression
  • reducing postpartum bleeding
  • quicker return of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size
  • maintaining or boosting milk production
  • increasing iron levels
  • increasing libido and energy
  • decreasing or halting hair loss

"How do you eat it?”

There are several ways people can ingest their placentas for nutritional benefits: encapsulation, blended in a smoothie, raw or any other way they desire, just depending on the comfort level and convenience the mother desires.   

The raw method came about when a midwife had a mom bleeding too much postpartum, and she cut off a small piece of the placenta and placed it under the tongue of the mother.  The story goes that within minutes, the bleeding had stopped and the mother stabilized.  For women with whom this idea resonates, but who don’t want to actually taste their placenta, they can mix some small chunks of placenta with fruit and blend it into a fruit smoothie to drink within a couple hours of birth.  The taste of the fruit overwhelms any taste from the placenta (especially if you put banana in it).

The other main method is encapsulation.  This involves dehydrating the placenta into thin slices (like beef jerky) and then grinding the pieces into a thin powder to be placed in capsules.  You then take them like regular supplements a couple times a day.  It is important that there be absolutely no moisture present when they are placed into the capsules otherwise that’s when bacteria can grow.  When they are completely dry, bacteria and other organisms cannot survive and that’s what makes it safer for consumption over a longer period of time.

“Do you have to have a home birth to eat your placenta?”

You don’t need to have a home birth, but having an out-of-hospital birth definitely makes it easier.  Midwives typically don’t care what you want to do with your placenta because we consider it to be yours and therefore, it’s your decision.  Hospitals generally see your placenta as biohazard waste material and are very reluctant to release it.  Granted, I’ve had some hospitals just have you sign a waiver and that was it, but others, you had to pay to get a court order, and even then they wouldn’t release it.  If you are planning to have a hospital birth, call them or check with your doctor about the hospital’s policy so that you’re not surprised in the moment.

“How do I find someone and what does it cost?”

This all depends on what you are planning to do with your placenta.  If you are going with the raw method, you don’t need the help of a professional (though I would encourage you to treat yours like any other meat and keep it refrigerated, and know it will only be “good” for a few days).  If you are planning to encapsulate, you can either buy the necessary equipment and do it yourself (or rather find a friend to do it for you since you should be in bed resting!), or you can find an experienced professional.  Finding someone to encapsulate your placenta is generally fairly easy if you live close to a major city since you can google it.  Or ask a friend who has done it before.  Many placenta professionals are also midwives or doulas as well.  The most important thing is to make sure that the person you hire is experienced and very meticulous with cleaning and preparation protocols.  You want to make sure that you’re getting your own placenta and that it was prepared in such a way so that it will be safe for you to take.  Most professionals will charge between $200-$300 depending on the area you live in.

The decision to ingest your placenta isn’t something for everyone, but I think it’s definitely worth looking into and doing your research.  If you live in Lubbock or the surrounding areas, feel free to contact me for placenta encapsulation, I’d be happy to help!