Last week I talked about my VBAC Birth Plan and briefly mentioned getting my placenta encapsulated. I know this topic isn’t for everyone but I wanted to share my research and experience for anyone considering it.

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If I had to pick my parenting style it would be the lite version of the  crunchy / AP (attachment parenting) models. We cloth diaper, baby wear, co-sleep, wear amber, eat many organic foods, and follow more of a baby lead approach to transitions. I say a lite version because there are many things within those models we don’t follow. I am so grateful for the baby wearing, holistic, mommy Facebook groups I have joined over the last few years. I have learned so much about these models and gained a wealth of knowledge to help me be the best mother I can be. Not always perfect, but always trying.

To date, the most crunchy thing I have done is encapsulate my placenta after Caity’s birth to help with my postpartum recovery.

I had first heard about placenta encapsulation in Parker’s birth month group on Facebook. Some of the 2+ moms who had dealt with Postpartum Depression (PPD) talked about the positive experiences they had with it in the months following their babies births. The idea of placenta encapsulation certainly isn’t for everyone so I was fairly quiet about my decision and only told a few close family and friends. Even then, I had my work cut out for me answering all of their questions and concerns. Below is a summary of what I learned through my research, talking with other mothers, and my personal experience. Please note that I hold no medical degree and all opinions are my own. If you think this is something you would like to do I strongly recommend you speak with a healthcare professional.

What?

The practice of ingesting your placenta is referred to as placentophagy and can be dated back to the 1500’s within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This practice is most common in present day within Chinese, Vietnamese, Hungarian and Italian cultures. The practice of placentophagy is also gaining popularity here in the US among the holistic community of midwives and doulas.

Why?

For nine months the placenta provides the baby with everything they need to grow into a little human being. It transfers vitamins, nutrients, and even oxygen from the mother to the baby. As a result, the placenta is full of iron, vitamins, as well as estrogen and progesterone after birth.

What are the benefits?

Placentophagy is believed to:

  • Increase milk production
  • Decrease postpartum bleeding
  • Reduce and improve postpartum recovery time
  • Increase energy
  • Balance hormones
  • Replenish essential nutrients
  • Decrease (and possibly) eliminate postpartum depression or baby blues

While the skeptics will claim there is not enough research to prove any benefits, there is a positive response among women who have practiced placentophagy within my mommy Facebook groups, blogs, and articles around the web. Here are just a few I stumbled upon during my research A Fulfilled Mommy / Beautifully Bohemian / Mommy Potamus

What are some ways to use the placenta?

Raw form includes placing pieces under your tongue, blending into a smoothie or cooking it into meals.

There are also two methods of encapsulation. The Traditional Chinese Method consists of steaming, dehydrating, and grinding the placenta to be mixed with additional herbs and encapsulated. The raw encapsulation method skips the steaming process and is encapsulated as is. There are instructions on the web of how to prepare it yourself but I strongly recommend you find someone who is certified. A great deal of caution must go into proper preparation to prevent the placenta from spoiling and contamination. If you are unsure how your body reacts to certain herbs you may want to use the raw encapsulation process.

The placenta can also be used in a salve to help treat c-section scars and stretch marks or in a tincture.

A few things to remember. 

First, you need to check with your hospital or birthing center for their procedures on taking your placenta home with you. Don’t be surprised if you are met with hesitation and possibly rude comments. In most cases it isn’t as simple as throwing it in your overnight bag. In the event of a c-section or when the placenta needs to be taken to pathology for testing it can be a little more difficult to get it back but not impossible.  Unless you have a direct contact, I would recommend calling L&D directly and asking to speak with the head nurse.

Secondly, it is important to prepare the placenta properly when it comes to encapsulation. If you are unable to do proper research and preparation yourself, I strongly recommend finding someone who is certified to do it for you. Talk to them about which encapsulation method would be best for you. If you are sensitive to herbs or unsure of how you would react you may want to stick with the raw method.

Most importantly, just like with any new medications, watch yourself. If you start to feel off, stop taking them immediately and contact your doula or the person who prepared it for you. Of course in emergency situations call for help.

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My personal experience with placenta encapsulation.

During my postpartum recovery following Parker’s birth I experienced some baby blues, low milk supply, and difficulty physically recovering. After hearing so many positive encapsulation experiences within Parker’s birth month group I decided to look into it a little further when I got pregnant with Caity. I spent the next few months researching, talking to other moms, and convincing the hubs that I wasn’t crazy. It took awhile to find someone local but I ended up locating a doula who could not only encapsulate my placenta but also do our birth photography. The whole package included doula services, a pre and post visit to the house, birth photography, and placenta encapsulation was about $1,850.

As I mentioned above, finding out the hospitals protocol and policies was the most difficult part. After getting the run around from a few people who clearly didn’t understand what I was asking for someone suggested that I call L&D and ask for the head nurse. That made perfect sense since they are the ones working directly with mothers. She said I just needed to sign a form and bring a cooler and Zip Lock bags to take it home. They would be able to keep it in the fridge until I was discharged. In the event of a c-section I would need to sign additional forms and possibly need to pay a fee to take it since it is sent down to pathology.

We kept a cooler in the car along with our hospital bags. After Caity was born and we were both recovering in the delivery room I signed a form and they wrapped it up and placed it in the cooler for our doula to take with her. A few days after Caity was born my doula dropped by with a little container of capsules. I took two capsules twice a day for the first two weeks and then one a day or as needed. Our doula told Rob he could slip me one if I seemed out of sorts or especially emotional.

I definitely noticed a huge difference overall with my postpartum recovery. While there are other variables that helped with this, I know the pills definitely helped.

Baby Blues
This time around I didn’t experience any depression, baby blues or found myself crying for no reason.

Milk Supply
My milk came in quick and my supply has been amazing this time around. I have not needed to supplement or use other methods to increase my supply, even through the first few growth spurts and getting sick. I had to supplement with Parker from the beginning and by month 4 he started to refuse to nurse. The fact that I was able to do skin to skin immediately and nurse within the first hour also helped with my supply.

Physical Recovery
I was feeling more like myself within the first week. I had a minor set back with a small tear but other than that I had more energy. This had a lot to do with the fact that I had a VBAC and wasn’t recovery from surgery however, at 2 months I was still noticing a difference.

Overall I am very grateful that I was able to try this and had such a positive experience and impact on my recovery. It’s certainly something I strongly recommend for any first time moms or second time mom who suffered from postpartum depression, low milk supply, or delayed recovery.

Meme

Resources
http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/ask-heidi/eating-the-placenta.aspx
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_placentophagy
http://www.bellybelly.com.au/post-natal/placenta-encapsulation-benefits-of-eating-your-placenta#.VMFvjlXF-lI