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.
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