Placenta pills have become more mainstream in recent years, but whether or not a mother should “eat” her placenta is still a controversial subject. Many moms say they experienced profound benefits from placenta encapsulation, but the practice is not without risks.
Proponents of placenta encapsulation often note that most mammals, including herbivores, eat their placentas.
They also promote the health benefits of doing so. Currently, the science is still out on if it’s healthy. There haven’t been any large-scale randomized controlled studies on the subject yet.
Because the practice is becoming more popular, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing to the potential benefits of it. There are claims that it can help balance hormones, lower stress, increase iron levels, relieve pain, reduce bleeding, and so much more.
When I was pregnant with Little Bear, I knew I wanted the placenta encapsulated. And I’m glad I did.
In fact, I was so thankful to have those placenta pills that I knew I’d do it again, if possible, after Wilder Baby’s birth. I did, and I strongly believe they were beneficial during that postpartum period as well.
I don’t think they are a “magic pill.” Just as every woman is unique, placenta encapsulation experiences will be, too.
Placenta Encapsulation May Reduce the Risk of Postpartum Depression
I first learned about placenta encapsulation back when I used to read pop culture magazines. Several celebrity moms have ingested their placentas. It wasn’t because it was trendy in Hollywood that I was interested in it, though.
That Risky Business and Mission: Impossible actor downplayed the seriousness of postpartum depression, but I made it my mission to do what I could not to experience it. And I wanted to do so naturally, even though placenta encapsulation can be risky.
Although I had my placenta encapsulated, I still experienced the baby blues after Little Bear’s birth. Nevertheless, I’m positive that the placenta pills prevented it from spiraling into full-blown depression.
It was an emotional rollercoaster, and the man of the place knew to hand me one or two capsules with a glass of water or fresh juice whenever tears would well up in my eyes. They really helped me.
Could it have been a placebo effect? Maybe, but I’m grateful that they made me feel more balanced mentally, regardless of if it was all in my mind.
Placenta Encapsulation and Milk Supply
Many placenta encapsulation enthusiasts say that the practice can help increase milk supply. There have been a few scientific studies and surveys that support this, along with numerous firsthand accounts from mothers.
On the other hand, some lactation consultants warn that the opposite could occur, too. That’s because the placenta makes progesterone, a pregnancy hormone that inhibits the release of prolactin, a hormone that promotes milk production.
The placenta secretes a variety of hormones, though, including human placental lactogen, which has prolactin-like properties.
I struggled with low milk supply after the birth of Little Bear, and I never considered that the placenta pills could have contributed to that. I actually thought they supported my supply.
Thankfully, my milk supply has been abundant this time around. I have been taking the encapsulated placenta, but I also started taking several breastfeeding supplements immediately. I also make sure to stay hydrated with lactation drinks and homemade lactation granola.
The Placenta and Postpartum Recovery
In addition to potentially boosting one’s mood and milk supply, placenta encapsulation may increase energy and encourage recovery. I’d like to think that the placenta pills help me feel less fatigued; however, I definitely feel exhausted at times.
I’ve read that consuming the placenta could also contribute to the release of the hormone oxytocin, which promotes bonding with the baby and helps the uterus return to its normal size. I can’t say for certain that the encapsulated placenta played a role in this for me. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact do help the body produce this love hormone, though.
Placenta Skin Care
Some expensive beauty products contain sheep placenta. Personally, I would not be willing to try those, but I did try a salve made using my own placenta powder.
The doula made it using a blend of organic oils and herbs. I only used it as a topical balm, but I’ve heard it could help soothe the perineum as well as hemorrhoids. Plus, it could be applied to skin irritations, scars, stretch marks, sore nipples (be sure to wash it off before nursing), and baby’s diaper area.
I choose to make my own natural diaper rash cream, but I did enjoy taking the time to rest and use the salve as a body moisturizer.
Is Placenta Encapsulation Safe?
The safety of the practice depends on several factors, including, but not limited to, how the placenta is handled and processed. The main risks are the potential exposure to bacteria and bloodborne pathogens.
The knowledgable doulas who encapsulated both of my placentas followed the highest standards of safety. They steamed, dehydrated, and encapsulated both of the placentas in my home. Furthermore, they thoroughly cleaned and sanitized their workspace.
Hopefully this goes without saying, but placenta encapsulation is a personal choice. Please do your own research and consider speaking with your midwife or medical provider to determine if the potential benefits outweigh the risks for you.
Is It Gross?
Some people are grossed out simply by the thought of it, I’m sure. In my opinion, no, it wasn’t gross at all.
I didn’t think it smelled bad, perhaps because the doulas used fresh ginger and lemon in the steam water. Taking it in capsule form, there’s no taste. It’s like taking a vitamin.
For those who can stomach the idea but don’t like taking pills, there are other ways to consume it. For example, in smoothies.
During my first placenta encapsulation experience, the doula made a long-lasting, alcohol-based tincture from some of the ground dehydrated placenta. I actually haven’t had any of it yet. It is said to be helpful during times of change. For instance, the return of the menstrual cycle, weaning, and possibly even menopause.
The Tree of Life
Placenta encapsulation is purportedly rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine. People often treated this amazing organ with reverence at least as far back as ancient Egypt. Sadly, many people today dispose of the afterbirth like waste.
Whether or not you choose to consume your placenta, if you get the chance, look at the incredible temporary organ that nourished your baby and connected you with your little one. It resembles a tree of life.
What are your thoughts on placenta encapsulation?