With the passing of HB 1670 in 2016, you can now have your baby and keep your placenta too! Although there are no court orders or additional fees required to have your placenta released, each hospital has different policies and it's best to be prepared for how your birthing place handles placentas after birth. No matter what hospital you're in, you'll need to sign the placenta release waiver (don't worry, your nurse will know exactly what you're talking about) and remind your nurse, doctor and/or midwife during pushing, or prep for cesarean birth, that you're keeping your placenta. It's also important to remember that your precious placenta should be on ice or refrigerated within 2-3 hours after birth and frozen within three days to be safely encapsulated. After booking services, I send a handy and specific checklist for how you can handle your placenta after birth, but generally, here's what you can expect when encapsulating with Woman Craft:
St. David's North/ Women's Center (North Austin Medical Center )
This St. David's releases placentas immediately, so bring a cooler and five gallon ziploc bags with you. After giving birth, ask your nurse to double bag your placenta and have your partner fill the remaining three bags with ice from the refreshment room. Pack your placenta in the cooler and surround it well with ice and let me know that baby is born. This hospital generally prefers that you don't bring your placenta to your postpartum room, so if you give birth overnight or I'm not able to make it to the hospital by the time you relocate to your new room, you can hand your placenta off to a relative or friend to keep with them or transport to their home for a few hours or keep your cooler in your car until I arrive for pickup. Either way, make sure to refresh ice as needed so that your placenta stays fully surrounded by ice!
St. David's South
St. David's Round Rock
These hospitals release placentas immediately, so bring a cooler and five gallon ziploc bags with you. After giving birth, ask your nurse to double bag your placenta and have your partner fill the remaining three bags with ice from the refreshment room. Pack your placenta in the cooler and surround it well with ice. Let me know that baby is born and keep your placenta with you in your L&D or postpartum room until I can swing by to pick it up. You can expect at 2-3day turnaround for placenta pills when you give birth at any St. David's in Austin.
St. David's Main
No need to bring a cooler with you unless you'll be transporting your placenta home yourself. This St. David's conveniently bags, labels and stores all placentas in a separate fridge on the L&D unit. If you're taking your placenta home yourself, you'll want to bring a cooler and some bags for ice with you, but if we're working together, I'll bring my own cooler to pick your placenta directly up from the fridge at nurses' station.
Seton Main & Seton Northwest
Seton hospitals do not directly release your placenta to you, but it can still be released (if you take issue with that, I suggest giving a call to the hospital risk manager in hopes of someday changing this unnecessary rule). All placentas at Seton are stored in their Pathology freezer for 72 hours. This means that after birth, your placenta will be bagged, labeled, and transported to the Pathology unity by a tech. Since placentas need to be on ice or frozen within 2-3 hours after birth, you should confirm with your nurse that your placenta has landed in pathology in a timely matter. It's also important for your to double check with your doctor after giving birth to make sure that they don't plan on having your placenta examined in pathology without legitimate reason (ex: suspected infection). A placenta that has been examined is unsafe for consumption. When working with clients at Seton, I pick the placenta up after the 72 hour hold. If you're picking it up yourself, you'll want to bring a cooler and ice. In addition to the 72 hours of freezing, you can expect another 1-2 days for the placenta to safely thaw, plus 1-2 days of processing, getting your your finished placenta capsules about 5-7 days after birth.
Birth centers (and home births) are super easy for placenta release, as you don't even have to sign a waiver to keep your placenta. Just bring a cooler and five gallon ziploc bags. After birth, have your midwife double bag your placenta and have your partner pack the placenta and cooler up with ice. Let me know that baby is born and I'll meet you at the birth center or at home a few hours later for easy placenta pickup! When using a birth center, you can expect a 2-3 turnaround on your placenta pills.
For more info on placenta encapsulation, read some FAQs right here. You can also contact me directly or book services online. Happy Birthing!
Just because someone is a birth pro (doula, midwife, etc), does not mean that they offer professional quality placenta services. Offering services without having formal training in placenta encapsulation is a huge red flag! Although there are many training organizations to choose from, APPA, IPPA and PBi are a few reputable ones. Without formal training, how did this person learn safe encapsulation protocol? Did they learn from YouTube (yes, people really do do that!)? Did they learn by helping their sister encapsulate a mutual friend's placenta? Did they learn from someone else who doesn't have formal training? Although the encapsulation process is fairly simple, it's not always straightforward and formal training goes a long way in making safe decisions. Having proper training in the OSHA standards of bloodborne pathogen handling and food safety handling are also important! Remember, it's not just your placenta that will be passing through the encapsulator's equipment, so proper training in storage, preparation and sanitation are absolutely vital to safe encapsulation!
2. PREP SPACE
So where does the magic happen? There are three different places that placenta prep usually happens: 1- In the professional's separate, dedicated workspace, 2- In the client's personal kitchen, 3-In the professional's personal kitchen. The first two of those places are appropriate for professional prep, the third is not. I personally prefer to work in my separate, dedicated workspace because it gives me more control over timing, safety, and sanitation (plus I have a placenta-specific fridge!) all while not taking over new parents' kitchen. It also means that there's no food, kids or pets going in and out of the prep space either! It's one thing to encapsulate your own (and only your own) placenta in your personal kitchen, but it's another to encapsulate multiple women's placentas in your personal kitchen. See the difference?
Who transports the placenta after your birth? Will your encapsulator already be at the birth with you? Do they have pickup hours or other limitations? Do they charge an additional fee for picking up your placenta? Some encapsulators have an option for you to drop off your placenta to their home or workspace and some absolutely will not transport a placenta at all. If the preparation is going to happen in your home, do you have someone else who can worry about transporting your placenta (and making sure it is stored correctly for consumption)? If you're planning a home or birth center birth, will your encapsulator still pick the placenta up from the hospital if you transfer or will it be your responsibility to get it to them? Are you responsible for picking up your finished capsules or will they be delivered to you, whether you're home or at the hospital? If these questions are not clearly answered on their website, inquire further!
4. PERSONAL ATTENTION
This quality may or may not be important to you in your decision. However, quality support from your encapsulator (or from anyone who you invite to be part of your birth and postpartum experience) can be a huge bonus and a major help in recovery. If you want to know how invested in your satisfaction and comfort your encapsulator will be, pay attention to communication before labor starts. Are they forthcoming and thorough on their website? Are they responsive to inquiries, emails, and texts? Do they give you thorough and specific directions for how to handle your placenta (each hospital and birth center are different)? Do they work with 4-6 clients a month or 40-60? Are they going to be able to offer you personalized guidance after your baby is born or are you just one of many clients to them?
I'm a human person living in ATX, so yes, cost is important to me too! And no, having a baby ain't cheap. I get that (believe me). However, when dealing with a service based industry, cheapest does not typically equate to best, so I suggest finding out exactly where you'll be losing quality to save that $150 (again, I get the allure). You can likely find an answer by sifting through the questions above with any encapsulator you're looking into working with or reading over their website.
It is my personal goal to provide the highest quality service and support to every woman and family I work with so that moms can have a more comfortable pregnancy and postpartum period. I'm always happy to chat directly, but you can also read more about my training, FAQs and protocols, and testimonials throughout my site.
1. "WHAT ARE YOU, CRAZY? Why would anyone eat their placenta?"
During pregnancy, the placenta actually becomes an endocrine organ as it starts producing many hormones that help us cope with the pain and stress of pregnancy and childbirth. Estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and cortisol levels rise steeply with placental production- with some increasing by 1,000 fold at the end of a full term pregnancy! So what happens when the placenta is delivered right after the birth of your baby? Within three to five days those hormone levels drop back to pre-pregnancy levels, leaving new moms with low levels of stress-coping and pain-relieving hormones while the brain figures out how and when to keep up with production.
Consumption of the placenta can help replenish these vital hormones along with opioids and nutrients including proteins, iron, vitamin B6, oxytocin and corticotropin-releasing hormone.
Women who consume their placenta report:
2. "Ok, but that’s just plain gross!"
I get it. Imaginations can run wild at the mention of eating your placenta. I get lots of weird/ disgusted/ confused looks when I tell people what I do, followed by comments about a family dinner of placenta loaf. Although some people do choose to eat their placenta that way, you certainly don’t have to! Encapsulation is a wonderful method for ingestion if you’re a little (or a lot) weirded out by the whole thing. I take the ick- factor out of the process by transporting your placenta for you, preparing it in my space and delivering the finished product back to you in totally palatable pill form.
3. "But isn't all the good stuff cooked out?"
Nope! Just like how your meats and veggies at dinner still retain vital nutrients after cooking, so does the placenta when it’s steamed and dehydrated. Humans have been consuming organ meats for centuries (liver, kidneys, etc), because they are so nutrient dense and cooking foods before consuming them typically helps us better digest them as well. Removing water from foods via dehydration is a practice that’s been used for centuries as a way to preserve foods and maintain their beneficial nutrients.
4. "Is that considered cannibalism?"
Unless you removed a placenta straight from your enemy after winning a battle and are consuming it ceremoniously, or are desperately eating your ship-wrecked neighbor’s placenta after months of being lost on a desert island, then no, placenta encapsulation is not cannibalism. Cannibalism is “the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings.” Placentophagy is the act of consuming human placenta postpartum… in this case- your placenta!
5. "But I’m a vegetarian /vegan!"
Although it may seem counterintuitive to eat your placenta when you normally abstain from meat, the placenta is like no other meat you’ve ever encountered! Placenta is the only meat taken without violence- no animal suffered or died for it and it is unequivocally associated with health, life and birth. Even herbivorous mammals consume their placentas afternbirth!
6. "But animals only eat their placenta to clear the birth site."
You’ve probably heard that most mammals eat their placenta immediately following birth. You may have also heard that animals only do this to clear the birth site and avoid attracting predators or because they’re hungry after birth and the placenta is readily available nutrients. However, these theories don’t’ stand up to analysis because they are true in only a subset of mammals, while placentophagy is almost universal.
7. " Doesn't the placenta hold on to a bunch of toxins and waste?"
The placenta is a life-sustaining organ and part of a detailed filtering system that works to prevent most harmful substances from making it to the baby in utero. When the placenta filters out environmental toxins or waste, they’re then passed on to the mother to remove and filter through her organs- they are not just stored indefinitely in the placenta! Some heavy metals that are found in cigarettes can be stored in the placenta, so heavy smokers might take this into consideration before moving forward with encapsulation.
8. "I heard that the hospital won’t release my placenta or that it's an ordeal to get it released."
Until 2016, it was true that you had to have either a court order or have a funeral director available for the hospital to release your placenta (yes, totally crazy, I agree). With HB 1670 in effect, placenta release is now fairly easy! If you’re delivering at St. David’s, you simply sign a waiver at admission and your placenta is released without any holds and if you're at Seton, they still hold placentas for 72 hours. But don’t worry, I coordinate pickup so you don’t have to worry about it storing and transporting after your baby is born! After signing up for encapsulation services, I send you an easy and personalized checklist that walks you through every step of the process for your specific birth place.
9. "Is it true that encapsulation can help with breastfeeding? "
For over 1,400 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been prescribing placenta for increased milk production following childbirth.
In one study of women who were given either their placenta to consume post birth or a placebo of beef (both freeze dried and given in the same dose), most who consumed their placenta had a marked increase in lactation. The participating women already expected to have a difficult time breastfeeding due to low milk production after previous births or flat/ inverted nipples, but over 85% of those who ate their placenta reported good or very good results with an increase in milk supply, breast size and tenderness, and milk that flowed on its own. A similar study with rats shows increased milk supply after placenta consumption due to orally-active substance that may modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones.
10. "I can’t encapsulate- I had pitocin/ epidural/ cesarean/ antibiotics/ etc."
.Fortunately, that’s just not true! Pitocin, epidural anesthesia and antibiotics are incredibly common in births these days and have no noticeable effects on placenta capsules. Most medications are broken down and leave the system relatively quickly so they won’t be stored in the placenta (remember #7?). A substance would also have to survive the cleaning, steaming and dehydration process to make it into your capsules.
Beacock, Michelle. “Does Eating Placenta Offer Postpartum Health Benefits?” British Journal of Midwifery.
Bodnar, Lisa, PhD, MPH, RD. “Have We Forgotten the Significant of Postpartum Iron Deficiency?” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Volume 193. 2005.
Fertil, J Reprod. “Effects of Placentophagy on Serum Prolactin and Progesterone Concentration in Rats After Parturition of Superovulation.” November 1980.
Hendrick, Victoria, MD. “Hormonal Changes in the Postpartum and Implications for Postpartum Depression.” Psychosomatics. Volume 39 #2. March/ April 1998.
Mercola, Joseph, OP. “The Health Benefits of Consuming Organ Meats.” Mercola.com. December 2013.
Schramel, P. “Selenium, cadmium, lead, and mercury concentrations in human breast milk, in placenta, maternal blood, and the blood of the newborn.” Biological Trace Element Research. Volume 15, Issue 1. January 1998.
Soykova- Pachnerova, E. “Placenta as a Lactagogon.” 1954.
Not too many things can compete with having a baby- in excitement or workload. Luckily, a little bit of forethought can go a long way in way preparing for a smooth transition from pregnancy to the sacred weeks following birth. Be sure to scroll down and check out the first half of my six tips for a happier and healthier postpartum period if you haven't yet!
4) Eat Your Placenta
Placenta encapsulation isn't just for hippies anymore. In fact, all but a handful of mammals instinctively consume their placenta after giving birth and this practice is becoming more mainstream with modern women. During pregnancy the placenta becomes a primary endocrine organ, taking over production of many reproductive hormones. These hormone levels are 20-30% higher than normal during this time! After birth estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, and other hormones, along with thyroid levels, drop immediately, causing a significant physical and emotional crash in new moms- also known as the "baby blues."
Luckily, encapsulation is an easy, no-mess way to consume your placenta and smooth the transition into motherhood... No yuck required! Women who consume their placenta consistently report benefits that including fewer hormonal swings, increased energy and milk supply, a decrease pain, less bleeding and an overall improved sense of well being- all from materials produced by your own body and processed into simple capsule form.
5) Adjust Your Expectations
This may be one of the most difficult steps in preparing for your postpartum because it can't be bought, scheduled or eaten, but adjusting your expectations for reality with a newborn may be an important step in your journey. Just like how TV and movies don't accurately portray childbirth (shocking, I know), they certainly don't portray the postpartum time either. Sometimes mothering comes naturally, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes breastfeeding comes naturally, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you go for what seems like literally days without sleep, you partner doesn't seem to be holding up their end of the parenting deal, you look six months pregnant four weeks after giving birth and there's a bird nesting in your hair. Sometimes babies have difficulty latching and formula supplementation is appropriate. Sometimes you're crying and bleeding, feel like you've lost your whole identity and don't know how to keep your well- meaning, but exhausting mother-in-law at bay.
I am by no means trying to spread horror stories or scare you. I am saying that parenthood is unpredictable, beautiful, messy, exhausting and amazing. It's the hardest f@#*ing work you'll ever do. Be flexible, be open to a change in plans and remember that there is no perfect in the parenting game.
6) Stay Well Fed and Hydrated
This one sounds simple, but hunger and dehydration can sneak up on you when all your attention goes directly to your precious (and very demanding) newborn. While you may not be sitting down for three homecooked meals a day, it's still important to get an additional 500ish calories a day when breastfeeding.
So what's a new mom to do when you don't have the time, energy or free hands to hang out in the kitceh all day?
Seriously, being a new parent is hard. Ask for help, accept help, be flexible and take some time for self-care. If feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, depression, weepiness or anxiety persist for more than a couple of weeks postpartum, talk to your care provider, connect with others online at Postpartum Progress or The New Mama Project or check out these local resources.
Hibbert, Christina. "Postpartum Mood Disorders: An Informational Guide For Couples". Psychology Today.
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I'm Colleen. Mommma. Birth, breastfeeding, pregnancy, placenta lover. Sleep Deprived.