Let’s get real about Placenta Encapsulation!

IMG_6470RTI swim in many social circles, and one of my favorite waters to wade in is my midwife and fellow doula circle here in Venice beach. In this pond, talking about eating your placenta is absolutely as normalized as talking about grabbing sushi for lunch.

I also swim in other oceans where I get willingly paraded around as the weirdo/hippie chick, and I’m asked some really spicy questions about placenta encapsulation by an altogether shocked (and many times totally grossed out) audience.

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Placenta smoothie action on the night Emil was born

I had both of my placentas encapsulated, and with our first I also received a tincture. With our second, my doula and soul sister Paula made me a smoothie just after I gave birth with frozen fruit and veggies plus a small section of the raw placenta blended inside. Then one of my midwives cut and froze a few more quarter-sized sections for smoothies that I could drink during the time she was doing the encapsulation.

If you want to know why women are doing this, here are the Wiki reasonsPlacentophagy is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth. The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin which stimulates involution (an inward curvature or penetration, or, a shrinking or return to a former size) of the uterus, in effect cleaning the uterus out. The placenta also contains small amounts of oxytocin which eases birth stress and causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk.

For me, each time I took the pills it had a balancing effect on my emotions and made me feel like less of a victim of my ever-changing and raging hormones. My French husband didn’t think the pills would have any effect on me, but nevertheless he humored me and supported my decision to have them.  There were about a dozen times during the first few months postpartum when I forgot to take a placenta pill, and midway though the day he would reluctantly ask me (when I was in hormonal meltdown-mode) if I had forgotten, and each time he was right, which made him ultimately thankful he says, for the money well spent.

Only once in an article online have I heard an account by someone who had minor ill-effects, and to me the article read like it was mostly trying to vie for an attention-grabbing headline without having any really stunning news to share. There are studies that show positive effects of human placentophagy, but unless a pharmaceutical company invents a way to commodify placenta encapsulation I won’t expect any well-funded scientific studies to be done or any expensive marketing materials to be produced akin to the flashy and ubiquitous cord-banking ads.

As a doula I encapsulated a client’s placenta for the first time recently chez Paula, who showed me the ropes. I did it for my beautiful friend Jordan; her vibrant and bright son Camper suddenly passed away due to a brain tumor at the age of 2 1/2 during her second pregnancy. I couldn’t think of anyone whom I wanted to help emotionally and physically more than her (and her husband) and it was a true honor for me to encapsulate Jordan’s placenta and to curl their son Dillon’s umbilical cord into a little keepsake heart shape after he was born.

For Jordan, the main effect the pills had for her was to lessen the pain of the C-section incision. My clients and friends have experienced other benefits from more energy to increased breast milk production. My questions for you are, are you comfortable talking about eating placenta carpaccio? If you or anyone you know have experience with placenta encapsulation, what was that experience like?

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