What is placenta encapsulation?
Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe anything involving the word “placenta” causes you to dry heave. Contrary to how it sounds, placenta encapsulation does not involve enshrining your organ for later sacrificial rituals. In fact, it’s nothing like that at all.
Placenta encapsulation is a process in which, immediately following the birth of your baby, your placenta is dehydrated and ground into a course powder, which is then placed into small capsules that look exactly just like any other vitamin or supplement we might take. Mothers then consume these capsules to help them rebound from the birth, avoid postpartum blues, and boost their milk supply.
Why would a mother want to consume her placenta in this manner?
The placenta contains a massive amount of crucial hormones and iron that leave our body once the placenta is born. Humans (at least in the Western world) are one of the few land mammals that do not regularly eat their placentas – a practice known as placentophagia. But consuming the placenta in any form can help new mothers maintain their hormone and iron levels in the few weeks after the birth, which can speed healing and help curb fatigue and anxiety in these new moms.
How does placentophagia assist postpartum healing?
The placenta contains at least a half dozen hormones and other natural substances that help the body to recover from birth. Some boost immunity in the new mom, some help lower stress levels, and others encourage the uterus to shrink back to size, which can help prevent excessive postpartum bleeding.
How can placentophagia boost milk supply?
One study showed a very positive increase in milk production for moms consuming dehydrated placenta, probably because it contains Oxytocin, which is responsible for the milk ejection reflex, or “let down.”
How can placentophagia help curb postpartum mood problems?
Research published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that postpartum iron-deficiency (anemia) can cause postpartum depression and anxiety, but let’s remember; the placenta contains a huge boost of easily-absorbable iron. Research published in The Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that fatigue is one of the major causes of postpartum depression, but mothers report that consuming the placenta can boost energy levels. Though few scientific studies have been spent on placentophagia itself, the combined existing research suggests that ingesting the iron-rich placenta may be a good first line of defense against postpartum mood problems. This is not to suggest that placentophagia is a cure or treatment for established mental health problems, nor should it replace any medically-prescribed treatment – it may only be one tool in helping to curb or limit postpartum depressive symptoms.
What does the placenta contain?
- 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 lactogenic and growth-promoting properties; promotes mammary gland growth in preparation for lactation in the mother. It also regulates maternal glucose, protein, and fat levels.
What are the benefits of placenta encapsulation?
It is believed that consuming the placenta can:
- Help to balance your hormones
- Replenish depleted iron levels
- Assist the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy state
- Reduce post-natal bleeding
- Increase milk production – this has been proven in a study
- Make for a happier, more enjoyable post-natal period
- Reduced postpartum hair loss
- Increase your energy levels
Baby blues can effect up to 80% of women within the first week of birth. Women who consume their placenta report fewer emotional issues and a more enjoyable babymoon.
How do I get my placenta encapsulated?
While some mothers may choose to dehydrate and encapsulate their own placentas, many more are hiring out the work to a placenta encapsulation professional. A placenta professional has special training and equipment to process the placenta, and also training in bloodborne pathogens and food hygene. Most often, the placenta professional in your area is probably a doula, midwife, or other birth pro who works closely with birthing mothers.
We will retrieve your placenta from your birth place, and process it in our work space on special equipment reserved for placentas only. The placenta pills are then usually returned to the mother within 2 days and should be stored somewhere cool and dark.