Jun 3, 2013

Let's talk placentas, shall we?

I'm was born and bred in Boulder, Colorado. Land of the liberals, where I am a moderate. Home of the dreadheaded trustafarians, of which I am neither. I shave my armpits, I don't drive a Subaru and I rarely play my didgeridoo for a crowd on Pearl Street. Although I love my hometown more than most places on earth, I haven't ever really fit the granola mold. It wasn't until becoming pregnant that I started to realize I had a little more tree hugger in me than I once thought.

My choice to have a natural water birth with midwives outside of a hospital was received with a bit of resistance from most people I told. But what really raised some eyebrows was my decision to encapsulate my placenta and consume it after giving birth.

After researching the numerous physical and emotional health benefits of consuming your placenta, deciding to dehydrate and encapsulate mine was a no brainer. 

Think about it. For 9 months during pregnancy, this incredible organ supports a growing life inside your body. It provides a perfect balance of vitamins, minerals and hormones to create a healthy baby. Once you've delivered that baby, the placenta remains as a viable, nutrient-rich organ uniquely designed for your body, by your body. It is chock-full of protein and iron which help aid in the body's recovery after childbirth. Placenta pills naturally increase energy, lessen postnatal bleeding, and may also help to increase milk supply in lactating women. 

Perhaps one of the greatest health benefits of consuming your placenta, however, is its ability to combat the symptoms of baby blues and postpartum depression. One article I read had this to say about fluctuating hormone levels after childbirth:

"Research on placentophagy is still in its infancy, although there is a large body of research beginning to develop on postpartum hormone fluctuations and health. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study that focused on CRH (Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone). CRH is a stress reducer, and is generally produced by the hypothalamus. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes so much CRH that the levels in the bloodstream increase threefold. However, it was also discovered that postpartum women have lower than average levels of CRH, triggering depressive symptoms.1 They concluded that the placenta secreted so much CRH that the hypothalamus stopped producing it. Once the placenta was born, it took some time for the hypothalamus to get the signal that the CRH levels were low, and to begin producing it again. This is just another sign that there is likely a biological cause for the baby blues, directly related to hormone levels." source

Did you know humans are the only mammals who don't eat their placenta immediately after giving birth? While I certainly wouldn't be game for making a placenta lasagna (it's true, there are recipes), I see nothing scary about taking a vitamin that is made from a product of my own body.   

Since I began taking my dehydrated placenta pills just a few days after delivering Liv and she is my only child, I don't have any other experience to compare it to. All I can say is that depression runs in my family and my physical and emotional recovery after giving birth was incredibly smooth. My milk came in quickly and with abundance and I felt that my hormones regulated within a couple short weeks. With the exception of a handful of sleep deprived sob sessions, I didn't experience any of the scary symptoms of postpartum depression.

Placentophagy has been around for thousands of years in eastern medicine practices. For me, that was evidence enough to give it a try. I figured if I didn't notice anything, no harm done. But if it could aid in my physical recovery and emotional health, it would be well worth it.

I would encourage any pregnant mamas out there to do some research on people in your area who do placenta encapsulation. Dig a little deeper, talk to people who have done it. Knowledge is power and it might make all the difference in your recovery after birth.

This semi-granola Boulderite is certainly a believer!


  1. i find this super interesting, it really makes a lot of sense! did you birthing center do this for you, or is this something you had to take elsewhere? i'm curious if hospitals would do this for you. (not that i'm pregnant, but we hope to have a baby in the next year or so, so i like to do my research!)

    1. I was referred by my birth center to a woman who did it from her home. From what I've heard, hospitals don't always support this practice so it's important to be very clear before heading into labor about wanting to preserve your placenta. (Bring your own ziplock bag and ask that they not treat it with chemicals). If not, they'll dispose of it right away. Hopefully you can find someone in your area who can encapsulate it. Some eastern medicine herbalists and acupuncturists will do it. Hope this helps!

    2. thanks, that does help! i'll definitely look into it! :)

  2. A few of my girlfriends have done this and given rave reviews. I knew nothing about it when I had my child, but the second go 'round, I'll mos def do this.

  3. Congrats on your little blessing, she is adorable! My little angel just celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago. I also encapsulated my placenta after birth :) I experienced depression in my early 20's and again at the start of my pregnancy so I knew there might be a chance of having that experience after birth. There was definitely a huge shift in becoming a mother for the first time, but I knew that it was not depression, since I knew what that felt like. I encourage all new mothers to think about this wonderful opportunity to supply your body with the most amazingly designed organ, after birth.

  4. Congratulations on your little one! I had my first on May 8th, so he is just a month old now. I had my placenta encapsulated and am very pleased with it. While I also don't have any other experience to compare it to as this is my first, I am really enjoying the benefits of it! I feel like I have more energy and am having a very smooth recovery. And you can't beat the great nutritional value it has. I delivered at a wonderful hospital which is very natural-birth friendly, and they had no problem giving me my placenta. My doula took it home with her and did the encapsulation. I also highly recommend it!! Nothing to lose!

    1. That's great to hear, Sonja! I'm glad it worked for you. Congrats on your babe!


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