Umm, excuse me? You ate what?
I ate my placenta.
Eiw gross right? Who does that?
Most mammals actually.
Your knee jerk-reaction is okay. Really...I am not offended. I had it too.
When I was pregnant with my first child our midwife asked me if I was thinking about encapsulating my placenta. Eiw, no. That sounded like a terrible idea. She even gave me a second chance after I gave birth to my daughter and asked if I was planning to keep my placenta. My response...."get it out of here."
When I began my doula journey, I started to learn about about placenta encapsulation, what it did and why...I was overcome with regret for having tossed aside the placenta my daughter and I shared with out a second thought. So, I started encapsulating other people's placentas in hopes they wouldn't feel the same regret I did.
I knew the story would be different the second time around and yes, I encapsulated the placenta I shared with my second child. It took me a few days to finish since I had a brand new baby and was caring for my older child (who recently had surgery for a broken arm). I probably should have hired someone, but I am that person who likes to take on way too many tasks at once. Don't be like me!
So what are the benefits of this "crazy, woo-woo" practice?
Benefits of consuming your placenta can vary person to person, and placenta to placenta. Your placenta was tailored especially for you and your baby. Like a fingerprint, there is no other placenta exactly like it.
Reports from those who have encapsulated their placenta's include:
- Lower instances of postpartum depression
- More energy
- Shorter periods of bleeding
- Higher milk supplies
- Help to restore iron levels
It is not just for the "crunchy" parents. Placenta encapsulation is a great option for everyone! Because the placenta is steamed, dehydrated and put into pills, the action is no different than taking a daily vitamin.
Lower Instances of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is something that many brand new parents face. For a lot of moms, it is something that we just don't talk about. The silence makes it worse because no one around us understands what we are going through, and sometimes the people we reach out to truly don't understand. Placenta encapsulation is not a cure-all for postpartum depression. But because of the high mineral content and the Oxytocin (love hormone) it can improve mood and help with the nutrition side of depression.
Some moms experience jitters or anxiety while taking their placenta pills. The majority of cases I have read about have involved a placenta pill also containing a "special herb mixture". Placenta pills should only contain your placenta and nothing else. In these cases, the pills should be reduced to a lower amount or stopped and reintroduced later. If there are no "special herb mixtures" and you are getting the jitters, that may be your body's way of saying, "I don't need this right now", or "I don't need as much".
Babies are exhausting! Especially when they are new, and cute, and you just want to stare at them while they peacefully sleep and you just want to sleep as they cry everyday reminding you of how much sleep you didn't get earlier as you were watching them sleep. It's a vicious cycle. And before you know it you are rocking back and forth in your nursery holding your crying, not sleeping baby hating your partner for going to bed and hoping that you stop seeing tracers out of the corners of your eyes. (Yes, this was me with my first child.)
Have I convinced you not to have children yet? Taking your placenta capsules are a daily reminder that you gave birth to a baby. Your body needs to sleep! Your body needs to heal. Maybe it is psychological or perhaps there is some sleep regulatory thing with placenta capsules, but letting your body find balance and rhythm with your baby is essential in the first few months.
Shorter Periods of Bleeding
A doula I trained with was previously a birth assistant for a midwife in Bali. When a mom had given birth and was bleeding heavier than the midwife felt comfortable with, the midwife would cut a small piece of the placenta and place it under the moms tongue. Because of the high concentration of Oxytocin in the placenta it worked like a shot of Pitocin and stopped the moms bleeding.
I have a dead zone in my leg from the two shots of Pitocin I had after my first birth. With my second birth I requested no Pitocin unless trying piece of placenta under my tongue didn't work. Neither were needed.
Oxytocin and Pitocin contract the uterus. This slows and stops bleeding.
Higher Milk Supplies
In surveys done, many moms have reported having more milk when they take their placenta pill vs. when they don't.
Placentas contain a growth hormone called Human Placental Lactogen. Its job is to help your body make milk. Some moms will save their placenta capsules or have a tincture made to prolong their use. It is especially helpful when going back to work if you have a milk supply dip.
Helps Restore Iron Levels
Pregnancy induced anemia sucks. While it can usually be controlled by eating a diet rich in greens or supplementation, it can come right back after birth due to blood loss. So, here is a double blind placebo controlled study on the iron content of the placenta.
The daily recommended iron intake for a lactating mom is 9-18mg. If a mom is taking 3 placenta capsules, 3 times a day, she is getting an average of 6mg of iron per day. Combine that with a healthy diet full of greens, fiber and vitamin-c filled foods, that is a pretty significant amount of iron. Supplements are not made to replace food, but to add to them.
If your only goal of taking placenta capsules is for the iron content, you could probably talk with your provider about an iron supplement instead if you are on the fence.
- Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone: Contributes to mammary gland development in preparation for lactation; stabilizes postpartum mood; regulates post-birth uterine cramping; decreases depression; normalizes and stimulates libido.
- Prolactin: Promotes lactation; increases milk supply; enhances the mothering instinct.
- Oxytocin: Decreases pain and increases bonding in mother and infant; counteracts the production of stress hormones such as Cortisol; greatly reduces postpartum bleeding; enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex.
- Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF): Stimulates the production of your body’s natural opioids, including endorphins; reduces pain; increases well-being.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: Regulates the thyroid gland; boosts energy and supports recovery from stressful events.
- Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH): Low levels of CRH are implicated in postpartum depression. Regulation of CRH helps prevent depression.
- Cortisone: Reduces inflammation and swelling; promotes healing.
- Interferon: Triggers the protective defenses of the immune system to fight infection.
- Prostaglandins: Regulates contractions in the uterus after birth; helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Anti-inflammatory effects.
- Iron: Replenishes maternal iron stores to combat anemia, a common postpartum condition. Increases energy; decreases fatigue and depression.
- Hemoglobin: Oxygen-carrying molecule which provides a boost in energy.
- Urokinase Inhibiting Factor and Factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing.
- Immunoglobulin G (IgG): Antibody molecules which support the immune system.
- Human Placental Lactogen (hPL): This hormone has promotes mammary gland growth in preparation for lactation in the mother. It also regulates maternal glucose, protein, and fat levels.
Placenta capsules are not a magic pill that will make you suddenly a healthy, happy, perfect parent. Take care of yourself postpartum. Remember to slow down. You don't have to be Super Mom. It's okay to give your body time to heal. It is okay to ask for help. Placenta capsules are just another tool to help you.
Interested in having your placenta encapsulated?
Order your placenta package here! Use coupon code "PLACENTA17" for a $50 discount on your package.
Unsure about the different options available? Check out my blog "Choosing the right kind of placenta encapsulation."