Placenta Encapsulation: Using Your Own Vital Force
The placenta is the life force for your little one throughout pregnancy. The placenta is an organ that surrounds the fetus in the womb, allowing for the exchange of blood, nutrients, and waste within the mama. After birth you have the choice to use your own placenta as a health benefit for both mama and baby. The traditional way of consuming the placenta is through encapsulation, a practice most often seen in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The placenta is considered a sacred medicine, a “full of life force” organ, and placenta remedies are an important part of birthing history (1). One of the first pharmaceutical experts of China, Li Shi-Zhen, included placenta encapsulation as a medicine in his first TCM Materia Medica published all the way back in 1578 (1). However, it wasn’t until the mid 1980’s when Raven Lang, an American midwife who studied TCM, brought back this lost tradition by promoting placenta remedies during a MANA conference in America (if you are interested in further placenta history check it out here) (1).
What is in my placenta?
There are a number of hormones, minerals, and nutrients held within the placenta that are beneficial in the postpartum transition. Important properties of your placenta are (2,3):
- Oxytocin: The feel good hormone which creates feelings of bonding, pain-relief, happiness, and elation.
- Cortisone: This hormone unlocks energy stored in the body and combats stress.
- Interferon: This hormone stimulates the immune system to fight off infections while the mother is healing from birth.
- Prostaglandins: Act as an anti-inflammatory
- Hemoglobin: Replenishes iron, stimulates iron production in blood
- Urokinase inhibiting factor and factor XIII: Lessens bleeding and promotes faster healing
- Prolactin/HPL: Stimulates healthy mammary function and milk production
- Trace Minerals (Iron, Zinc, selenium, and manganese (4, 5)): Helps increase rate of healing
How is the Placenta Consumed?
Whatever method you use for placenta consumption, we do recommend working with an experienced doula, midwife, or certified placenta encapsulation expert (some examples are APPA or IPEN). There are a number of ways that the placenta can be consumed;
- Have it steamed, dehydrated, ground and encapsulated *Most Common*
- Ingest some in a smoothie or cooked soon after birth
- Ingest a piece after the birth and then have the rest made into capsules
Additional Emotional Benefits
Although research is still limited in this area, women who consume their placenta report fewer emotional issues, increased energy, and enjoy a faster, more pleasant postpartum recovery. There are studies showing placenta encapsulation as support for postpartum mood disorders, however research is still limited in this area. In one study in 2013, 189 women took placenta pills, many of which experienced postnatal mood disorders (6). Approximately 40% of the women reported an increase in postnatal mood after placenta consumption, and almost all reported they would consume their placenta with their next child (6).
If you feel that placenta encapsulation is right for you, be sure to contact your healthcare provider to receive more information on the proper procedure. It is also important to be aware of any laws in your state that make it illegal to remove the placenta from the hospital.
At BIRTHFIT we feel optimizing the four pillars will aid in the best motherhood transition and placenta encapsulation may be one component of that. If you have any other postpartum questions or need additional support, please check out our local BIRTHFIT Regional directors.
Jill Cameron, DC@birthfit_rfv www.birthfitrfv.com
- Presence and concentration of 17 hormones in human placenta processed for encapsulation and consumption Young, Sharon M. et al.Placenta , Volume 43 , 86 – 89
- Johnson, Sophia K et al. “Placenta – Worth Trying? Human Maternal Placentophagia: Possible Benefit and Potential Risks” Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde vol. 78,9 (2018): 846-852.
- Gryder, L. K., Young, S. M., Zava, D., et al. (2017). Effects of human maternal placentophagy on maternal postpartum iron status: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled pilot study. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health 62:68-79.
- Young, S. M., Gryder, L. K., David, W. B., et al. (2016). Human placenta processed for encapsulation contains modest concentrations of 14 trace minerals and elements. Nutrition Research 36(8): 872-8.
- Jodi Selander, Allison Cantor, Sharon M. Young & Daniel C. Benyshek (2013) Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 52:2, 93-115, DOI: 10.1080/03670244.2012.719356