I dabbled with the idea of consuming my placenta for quite a while. It seemed like a no brainer. Women raved about all the benefits of it – increasing iron stores, helping milk supply, replenish nutrients to the body, it seemed awesome. But the he idea of eating an organ (I hadn’t eaten meat since 2006), let alone an organ that come out from my body wasn’t something that appealed to me. Most of the natural birth books I had read talked about frying it up or blending it in a smoothie, but it still just seemed gross to me. Mammals had been eating their own placenta raw for centuries, and there was no reason I couldn’t do it too. During my pregnancy, I frequently a lot of natural birth and parenting websites, and it was here that I first encountered the idea of placenta encapsulation – in which the placenta is dehydrated and made into a fine powder, and then placed into pill capsules. The pill capsules themselves were tasteless and odorless making them perfect for someone like me.
A quick search online and I was able to find both recipes on how to do it yourself, and people in my area who provided the service. Although I loved the idea of doing it myself (and adding lactation herbs to the mixture!) I ultimately decided to pay for someone else to do it. I knew I would be exhausted after the birth of my son and wouldn’t feel up to it. I also hadn’t broken the news to my friends or family that I was planning on consuming my placenta – so I couldn’t imagine asking someone else to prepare it either. The service I chose was a mother herself who noticed great benefits when she consumed her placenta. She picks up the placenta from the hospital, encapsulates them, and then mails them back to your house. I loved that I didn’t have to make any special arrangements after my birth – simply text her and she would meet us at the hospital.
With the arrangements made, money tucked away in my labor bag, mini cooler packed, and placenta accounted for in our birth plan, I eagerly awaited the birth of my l’il bub. I went into labor on his due date, August 17th, and he was born a day later. (For a more detailed story, you can read Ethan’s birth story. Lucky for us, the hospital we delivered at was very placenta friendly. They simply had me sign a release, wrapped it up in plastic, and placed it in my cooler where it eagerly waited to be picked up. We kept it cool until it was picked up, and by the time we got home from the hospital, my package was delivered.
I eagerly tore open the package, read the guidelines, and popped some pills, hoping they would help my milk come in (you can read about our nursing journey – including battling low supply here). Sure enough, that night my breast got warm, red… and full of milk! To be completely honest, I’m not sure if my placenta helped or if that was the timing my milk would have come in anyways.
From then on, I took them dutifully. One of the benefits that new moms often see with taking their placenta was a decreased likelihood of postpartum depression… and I was considered to be high risk due to my medical history of depression, dysthymia and borderline personality disorder (most of my symptoms of all went away during pregnancy – but this is a post for another day). Although I experienced the normal baby blues and postpartum anxiety when the hormones were leaving my body, I did not experience any symptoms of postpartum depression, or experience the return of any of my other symptoms.
The pills only lasted about 2 months, but a placenta tincture had also been made – placenta is placed in alcohol – typically vodka. It’s great for times of stress or transition. I saved mine for a big transition – going back to work four months postpartum.My first day back was rough – I cried the entire drive to work, held it together for a few hours, cried in the bathroom, and then drove home. Only to repeat the process again after 45 minutes since it was only lunch time! I started taking 10 drops of my placenta tincture in my morning lactation tea and noticed a difference in myself immediately. I felt calmer and more at peace with my life circumstances. 8 months postpartum and I still have about 3/4 of my tincture left. You can also add vodka to top off the tincture to keep it longer, but I figure by the time it actually runs out, I won’t need it anymore.
It’s important to note, however, that no clinical research studies have been done on placenta consumption. This means there is no evidence to the benefits (see my article the pros and cons of eating your placenta for more information). This isn’t to say that the benefits are real, merely that the science hasn’t tested it. The personal experience of women who have experience the firsthand benefits should not be discounted. It’s possible that I experienced the placebo effect – simply thinking that it would help was enough – a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. Overall, I enjoyed the experience of consuming my placenta. Having it encapsulated made it more palatable and portable (currently the tincture sits on my desk at my day job). My milk came in after taking the pills, and I avoided postpartum depression. Whether or not it had anything to do with the pills is up for debate until science catches up. Having said that, there is no way I would leave my placenta out of my birth plan next time.
Have you consumed your placenta or are you considering it? What was your experience?