The wondrous placenta!
The placenta is one of the most fascinating organs and is owned neither by the mother nor the father, but rather lent to the mother with a little help from the father in order to provide the most environmentally safe and sound home for their baby over the next 9 months of growth and development. It is an endocrine organ, which means it produces hormones specific to and throughout the pregnancy. The hormones produced by the placenta include: estrogen, progesterone, hCG, TSH, cortisol, prolactin and relaxin to name just a few of the hormones of the placenta.
While many people may be turned off by the placenta most, if not all, midwives find great value in this wondrous organ not only for the growing infant, but also for the postpartum mom. While the placenta is still attached inside the womb it is a filter for the baby, removing waste from the fetal blood and providing a clean and sterile environment as well providing all their oxygen and nutritional needs.
Once the placenta has exited the womb many simply leave it with the care providers to be discarded, but a growing number are realizing the value of this small and temporary organ and are harvesting the benefits through encapsulation.
While this is still a relatively new and somewhat controversial practice, there are many questions surrounding the process of placenta encapsulation.
Here are the most commonly asked questions:
Q: Does the dehydrating process destroy the nutrients?
A: According to a PubMed study completed in 2000, the nutritional contents of a dehydrated placenta were enriched, not lost, as commonly thought by many. The proteins, fat and minerals were especially well maintained and beneficial. Iron in particular is stored.
Q: What are the benefits of taking my placenta?
A: Following the birth of the baby and the placenta there is a shift in hormonal production. The placenta has stored vital nutrients and hormones throughout the pregnancy. It is thought, when a woman takes her placenta postpartum, these hormones, proteins, vitamins and minerals previously stored in the placenta are returned to the mother in the early days and weeks of the postpartum period as her body re-regulates and begins producing lactation hormones. Benefits include: balanced hormones, increased energy, increased lactation, balanced mood, and increased iron levels.
Q: Does taking my placenta help with milk production?
A: Several studies show that ingesting the placenta, in any form, helps to reduce progesterone and increase prolactin. Both the decrease of progesterone and the increase in prolactin are necessary for a quality milk supply. Women will almost always produce perfect amounts of milk if they are well nourished, well rested and have reduced stress hormone levels with or without taking their own placenta. Although extensive studies have not been done to prove or disprove the ingestion of the placenta to increase milk supply, the common thought is the placenta pills contain protein, iron and micro-nutrient minerals needed for the nourishment of the mother and can help to keep cortisol leveled. If milk production is a concern for a mother, other galactagogues could be added during the encapsulation process such as fenugreek, goats rue, moringa, blessed thistle or fennel to support the lactation process.
Q: Does it help my mood/depression/anxiety?
A: While there are no current studies to definitively prove taking the placenta will be a "miracle cure" for depression, mood disorder or anxiety many women who did not take the placenta with their first pregnancy and did with their subsequent pregnancy are firm believers in the difference it makes. The placenta is known to contain, among many other vitamins and minerals, amino acids, L-tryptophan, serotonin and high levels of iron all which nourish the body, help reduce anxiety and promote sleep. These can lead to the reduction of depression and anxiety.
Q: How does it taste?
A: The placenta powder is encapsulated in a gel cap and does not taste any different than other supplement or vitamin capsules you would take from a health food store. It is encouraged, if you are hypersensitive to taste, to swallow it with coconut water or juice.
Q: How is it prepared?
A: At Kona Birth and Midwifery Services your placenta will be prepared one of two ways.
- The traditional Chinese preparation method first steams the placenta with aromatic herbs such as rosemary, lavender and ginger followed by the dehydration process. If your placenta is meconium stained this preparation is recommended.
- Slow dehydration
Q: What precautions are taken to not cross-contaminate my placenta with someone else's?
A: No placenta is processed if HIV, Hep B, Hep C or GBS infection is known or present. All equipment is bleached and heat sterilized after each use.
Q: Are there contraindications to taking my placenta?
A: If you currently have or have had HIV, Hep B, Hep C, GBS infection, or other infections or fevers during your labor we will not process your placenta nor encourage you to consume your placenta.
Q: How do I store my placenta before it is processed?
A: If you are giving birth in the hospital then let your doctor and nurse know you want to retain your placenta for encapsulation and ask them to refrigerate it immediately. Usually the placenta is released when you are released. If you are having a home birth your midwife will inspect then refrigerate your placenta. Be sure to keep it on ice during transport from hospital/home to the encapsulation facility.
Q: How long does it take to process my placenta?
A: Once your placenta is released the process will begin. Your placenta will be washed first. It will take approximately 15-30 minutes to steam the placenta (if you choose the Chinese preparation) and approximately 24-48 hours of slow dehydration. This will be followed by powdering and encapsulating for a total of 48-72 hours to complete the encapsulation and packaging process.
Q: Can I encapsulate my placenta if I had Pitocin, Fentanyl or an Epidural?
A: Yes, it is considered safe and many placentas are processed after a mother has had induction or pain relieving drugs during labor with no ill effect. Although it is considered safe, any drug administered will have filtered through the placenta and will remain in the placenta to some degree.
Q: How often should I take the capsules?
A: I recommend mothers to take 1 capsule three times a day, preferably with each meal for the first 6 weeks postpartum or until they are all consumed.
Q: How long will they keep?
A: It is recommended to use the placenta pills within 6 months and discard if not used within 12 months of preparation.
Q: Can you add herbs to the placenta?
A: Herbs can be added to the placenta powder. The most common herbs to add are red raspberry leaf, nettles and alfalfa. These are generally added for the overall iron, vitamin and mineral benefit.
Q: Can you tincture my placenta?
A: Yes, we can make a tincture with your placenta. A small piece of your placenta is removed prior to processing and is added, most commonly, to 100 proof vodka. It is made in a sterile tincture bottle. It is shelf-stable and can be kept indefinitely.
Q: Which hormones, vitamins and minerals are most commonly found in the placenta?
A: Hormones: hCG, estrogen, progesterone, TSH, relaxin, human placental lactogen, placental growth hormone and kisspeptin. Vitamins: B6. Minerals: iron. Proteins are also found in the placenta.
Q: Are there any side effects to taking my placenta?
A: While it is rare to have a side effect from a placenta you have grown, some side effects have been attributed to taking placenta pills which include: rash, headache, gastrointestinal upset and emotional unbalance. While these could be related to the placenta pills, it could also be a simple side effect of postpartum itself. You the consumer will need to be aware of your body and stop taking any supplement, placental supplement included, if you find adverse effects.
Q: Can I eat my placenta raw or make salve out of my placenta?
A: Yes, but we do not prepare raw placenta products at Kona Birth and Midwifery Services nor salves and creams at this time.
Q: Do the capsules smell?
A: They do have a slight earthy or sometimes meaty smell.
Q: How do I store my capsules?
A: Capsules should be stored in the container in which they are received and kept in a cool, dark, dry space. Refrigeration can cause condensation and can lead to breakdown of the integrity of the powder.
Q: How many pills will it make?
A: Approximately 75-120 pills
Q: What is the cost to encapsulate my placenta?
A: If you are birthing with Kona Birth and Midwifery Services your encapsulation is included. If you only want the encapsulation services, prices are as follows:
$120- for simple slow dehydration process and encapsulation
$150-if additional herbs are added to the powder
$200- for traditional Chinese herbal preparation