“Post-Partum Placenta Encapsulation: You’re Going to Do WHAT?! Why!?”
Human placentophagy–Consuming or ingesting placenta or afterbirth. In less fancy terms, placenta encapsulation. Turning your placenta into capsules …to consume, to ingest like by your mouth. For real? Yes, I’m serious. Initially, it sounds like the most repulsive, disgusting thing ever imaginable. But it is actually quite natural and is universally practiced among mammals and cultures. I had heard of it but was far too scared to try it with the birth of my son.
As apprehensive as I was, I got my placenta encapsulated with my second birth, and it helped me tremendously with post-partum anxiety/depression, expedited healing time, and helped with my milk supply.
I know that there’s a likely chance that you’re gagging right this very moment, but just stay with me. It is a known fact that nearly universal that mammals (both herbivores and carnivores) consume their placenta immediately after giving birth with only a few exceptions. There is something visceral and instinctual about a mammal consuming its own placenta after giving birth to its babies, which lends the question Why?
Your placenta, which nourishes your baby in utero, is the only organ your body grows after you are born. Phenomenal! Placentas are full of hormones and minerals such as: Magnesium, iron, protein, vitamin B6, and other micronutrients, which are all tailor-made and specific to your body and your baby’s needs.
Not only do mammals consume their placentas, but placenta consumption (capsules, smoothies, teas) and traditions (burying, burning) have also been a timeless and universal practiced by many cultures.
So, yes, to answer your question, I did actually get this done, and I’m beyond glad that I did. To be honest, with the birth of my first son, I had post-partum depression/post-partum anxiety (PPD/PPA) for the first eight weeks. It was really bad. Like you know how occasionally you’ll hear news stories of new mothers who loser their shit and flip? That wasn’t me, but I can totally identify with that.
There were countless moments when I would cry uncontrollably, be too depressed to do anything but space out for longer than I should have, be debilitatingly anxious, worried, and had abnormal amount of resentment toward my sweet new baby. My first-born woke up every 45-90 minutes for the first three months of his life, which staggeringly slowed healing physically and emotionally. It was pretty fucking awful to tell you the truth. Because of chronic sleep deprivation and my natural propensity to be an anxious/depressed person anyway, my PPD/PPA was real and something that I would not wish on any mama.
With my second, I wanted a more holistic experience from birth (a whole other sublime story) through post-partum. The placenta encapsulator came to my home the day we got home from the hospital, and basically steamed and dehydrated then encapsulated my placenta. The broth from the steamed placenta was turned into ice cubes (which are currently in my freezer and can be added to soup or tea). And the dehydrated placenta was ground into capsules (which are just about gone now). I plan on using the cubes (in tea) if my hormones fluctuate or shift enough to the point where I’d need support or a boost (like right before I know I’m going to be a raging, hormonal betch); capsules are good for years in the fridge/freezer, so I’ll keep these for when I run out of cubes.
“You have a beautiful placenta,” the encapsulator’s assistant said to me. I laughed, as it was the awesomest yet awkwardest compliment I had ever heard! She explained that most placentas she had prepared yield between 80-110 capsules; mine gave me 145 capsules!
I attributed it to a healthy organic diet and an absurd amount of micronutrient supplements during pregnancy. Your body is amazing; your body gives you what you need. I needed this many to help replenish what I had lost in blood, nutrients, and in hormones. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the process of labor and birth leaves the mother cold, and deficient of blood, body fluids and energy (qi). One major way we can promote healing during the postpartum period is to return the yang energy via heat (steaming the placenta then consuming it).
The first two weeks I took extra after consulting with the specialist. With my history of anxiety and depression and having it post-partum the first time, I felt it necessary. This maintained my hormone levels as they began to drop, and I did not experience any post-partum depression and anxiety this time. I mean, maybe a little, but nothing out of the ordinary for me… It was nowhere near as disastrous as it was the first time around (I think that co-sleeping this time helped, too).
Furthermore, the capsules helped with my milk supply, too. That first day my placenta was ready to consume, the specialist left me a hot cup of Mother’s Milk tea with my broth in it. Within four hours, my milk supply had come in, and it was rich and strong–noticeable difference from my first child. Oh, the milk was flowin’!
Physically and mentally, I felt really great at two weeks post-partum, a life-changing difference compared to eight weeks. I also noticed that I didn’t have a scary amount of hair loss like I did the first time. The first time I felt like I lost hair by the handfuls every time I shampooed in the shower, like something out of a horror flick.
Currently at 3 months post-partum, I feel completely back to normal and can fit into my old jeans again! At around 2 months post-partum, I was almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I know that everyone is different and perhaps capsules don’t work this well for everyone, but I truly had the optimal healing experience. My placenta majorly contributed to the healing the first month (as did a special warm foods diet, keeping my body warm, sleeping as much as possible). So if you or someone you know is even entertaining the idea, please share! I highly recommend this to everyone. I’m glad that I was able to push through my reservations and chose gave myself and my second baby this gift…of myself…
Local Vermont Placenta Encapsulation Specialists
- Nichole Cunningham-Motherhood Village Doula–My friend Nichole is not only an encapsulation specialist but also a certified doula who offers a number of post-partum services. She serves the northern and central Vermont. If I were to have a third babe, I would go through Nichole and support a local mama!
- Tara Carpenter-Happy Bellies- I used Tara’s encapsulation service with my second birth; she serves central and southern Vermont as well as New Hampshire (and charges a traveling fee outside of her service area).