People ask me all the time why someone would want to encapsulate or ingest their placenta. Placentophagy is the practice of consuming the placenta after birth. Many people think it's gross, but so many people are seeing the benefits and doing it again and again in future births.
What is the placenta?
The placenta is a temporary organ that attaches to the uterine wall and grows with the baby. It is connected to the baby by the umbilical cord. It has 2 arteries and one vein and gives the baby all of its nutrients during gestation. The waste from the baby goes back through the umbilical cord and through the mother to dispose of. This makes the placenta a fascillitator organ, not a filter. It doesn't hold on to much. So most medications and toxins leave the placenta through the mothers body. Once it is born and the cord is cut, many new parents choose to take it home. Some choose to bury it, others choose to consume it. Doctors and nurses are taught that it is biohazardous waste and should be thrown away, but it is yours and you can choose to do what you want with it.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Many people who choose to encapsulate are hoping for faster healing (the uterus contracts more quickly), more balanced hormones and moods, enhanced milk supply and less fatigue. None of these benefits are guaranteed, but so many people experience one or more of these effects. Recently, a survey was done on over 400 people asking about their experience with their placenta.
53% Enhanced Milk Supply = 34% Increase/19%^ Oversupply/Only 1.2% Reported Lower Supply
59% Faster Healing= 45% said they feel they healed faster 13% said they don't think they did
93.3% Balanced Hormones= About 81% Noticed feeling more balanced and only 5% felt out of balance
73.4% More Energy=68.2% Noticed an increase in energy/ 27% said it stayed about the same
About 76% of people surveyed said they would likely encapsulate again
See Survey to read specific experiences*
What Are The Risks?
The risks are minimal if you are hiring a professional. There are many people out there encapsulating now which is awesome! However, parents need to hire the right person.
Anyone can go online and watch a you tube video and figure this out. But without proper knowledge of how to keep clients safe, there can be risks involved.
Making sure that the person you are hiring has a current bloodborne pathogens certification and food safety training, is a great start. Asking them questions like:
How do you make sure that your reusable equipment is cleaned properly from client to client?
Where do you encapsulate? How long have you been encapsulating? Or where did you learn?
Don't assume that because your midwife or doula encapsulates, that they were properly trained. Encapsulation is not taught in doula training or in midwifery school.
Most people who encapsulate professionally, really want you and your baby to be healthy and well and work hard to follow safe standards.
When can a placenta not be encapsulated?
There are very few contraindications for placenta encapsulation. The most common reason is if mom and/or baby had a confirmed infection. Having a fever in labor can be a sign of infection, but fever does not always equal infection. Having a low grade fever can be a side effect of an epidural. If she has a high fever and is being treated for infection, it is not advised to encapsulate and ingest her placenta. This doesn't mean that it needs to go to the lab. It belongs to her and she should fight to take it home if she wants to bury it or have another ceremony with it.
Often, people are told that the placenta had meconium on it and it is not able to be consumed. This is false. If the person preparing the placenta has proper training, they will know how to prepare the placenta properly to get rid of any potential bacteria.
Once a placenta is sent to a pathology lab in the hospital, it is not safe to consume. Don't let it go so quickly! Advocate for yourself or have your support person or partner advocate for you!