Are You Going to Eat That?
So you’re going to have a baby! From car seats, to sippy cups, everything gets its very own Google search. But what about you? Have you looked into what to expect for the postpartum period (or fourth trimester)?
If you have, you may have come across this crazy thing called “Placenta Encapsulation”. Yes, you read that correctly, PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION. Here are a few common questions and answers for a newly revived practice.
PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION FAQS
Answering Your Questions
WHAT IS PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION?
Placenta encapsulation is the process of taking this incredible organ that your body grew alongside your bundle of joy, dehydrating and grinding it into a powder to be put in capsules. The capsules are taken daily as a supplement.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO ENCAPSULATION?
While scientific evidence is lacking, many women report a boost in energy, increased milk production, and a decrease in postpartum blues. When asked why they chose to consume their placenta, mothers and midwives reported their reasoning as "the belief that eating one's placenta, or 'placentophagy' yields benefits to a mother's physical and mental postnatal health". (Beacock, 2012)
IS THERE SCIENTIFIC PROOF?
Unfortunately, most of the studies done on placenta encapsulation are limited, dated or otherwise inconclusive. The strongest evidence we have at the moment are the countless anecdotal accounts from the women who have chosen to consume their own placentas. We hope to see more systematic research done on encapsulation in the future.
HOW CAN ENCAPSULATION BOOST MILK SUPPLY?
The hormones that help during birth like oxytocin and prolactin continue to be important as breast milk production starts in the first few days after giving birth. The placenta has a store of these hormones leftover from labor, which could be absorbed by the mom from the placenta capsules.
In a study conducted in 1954, 86% of the subjects who were treated with placenta showed improved milk production, whereas 33% of subjects who were treated with beef showed improvement. (Soykova-Pachnerova, 1954)
DO NUTRIENTS SURVIVE THE PROCESS?
Steaming done at the appropriate temperature for the appropriate length of time is safe in regards to retention of beneficial hormones and nutrients. The temperature during the dehydration process is high enough to remove water, but not high enough to remove nutrients.. One study suggests that ‘the amount of nutrients, particularly protein and minerals in heat-dried human placentas (are) enriched’ compared to their raw state. (Phuapradit W, et al, 2000)
BUT DOESN'T THE PLACENTA HOLD ONTO TOXINS?
A common misconception about placentas is that they store the waste from the baby indefinitely. In all actuality, the placenta acts more like a transfer station, bringing nutrients to baby, and taking waste away from baby. When the placenta filters out environmental toxins or waste, they’re then passed on to the mother to remove and filter through her organs (cool, right?). There are small amounts of heavy metals in the placenta, however, it is scientifically proven that these levels are no greater than normal levels of heavy metals found in the body and in mothers colostrum and breast milk. (Iyengar & Rapp 2001, Schramel et al 1998).
Some heavy metals found in cigarettes can be stored in the placenta, so heavy smokers should be made aware of this before they choose to encapsulate.
When considering placenta encapsulation, it is also important to consider who you’ll trust the job to. There is no official regulation of placenta encapsulation at this time, however, training does matter. Specialists trained by APPA are held to the highest standards when it comes to preparation and sanitation. You can search for a specialist here.
Even if you choose a specialist who isn’t certified with APPA, please be sure to ask your specialist about any training/certifications they may have, and whether they have taken and passed the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen training.
Beacock, M. (2012). Does eating placenta offer postpartum health benefits?. British Journal Of Midwifery, 20(7), 464-469. http://dx.doi.org/10.12968/bjom.2012.20.7.464
Soykova-Pachnerova, E., Brutar, V., Golova, B., & Zvolska, E. (1954). Placenta as a Lactagogon. Gynaecologia; International monthly review of obstetrics and gynaecology, 138(6), 617-627
Phuapradit, W., et. al. (2000). Nutrients and hormones in heat dried human placenta. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 83(6), 690-694. Retrieved 27 Oct 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10932499
Iyengar, G & Rapp, A (2001), “Human placenta as a ‘dual’ biomarker for monitoring fetal and maternal environment with special reference to potentially toxic trace elements. Part 3: Toxic trace elements in placenta and placenta as a biomarker for these elements”. Science of the Total Environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969701008270