“You want to do what with your what?”
My husband’s reaction to my proclamation wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. He looked baffled, but not in a negative way. I think he wondered why I would want to save and eat my placenta after giving birth to our daughter more than the “gross” factor. Once I told him the possible benefits, he was all for it.
I’m far from “crunchy” or “granola” or whatever terms you might use to describe a person who would do this. As silly as this is going to sound, I actually heard about placenta encapsulation for the first time while watching the reality TV show Tia & Tamara. Remember the twins from Sister, Sister? Anyhow, Tamara had a baby and was drinking her placenta in some sort of liquid concoction. She said it helped with all kinds of postpartum issues including the ability to help boost your mood. Since I was pregnant with my second child, I was very intrigued. I was all for something natural that had the potential to make me feel better.
Once I researched and read about all of the possible benefits of eating your own placenta, I was hooked. There were even videos online showing how you can do it at home yourself, but I didn’t want anything to do with that! I called a good friend of mine who owns his own acupuncture practice in Los Angeles to confirm what I had been reading about. He told me to absolutely do it. Since I trust him, I didn’t need to hear any more. I set out to find someone local to do it for me and quickly found a doula. Before I get into my encapsulation story here is what my doula, Launa Martin, of Zen Birth Services, says about the benefits of eating your own placenta:
Healing powers of the placenta
Throughout human history, the healing properties of this magical organ have been honored and utilized for various medicinal purposes. Almost all mammals ingest their placenta after birth.
Women who ingest their placentas often experience the following beneficial effects
- Naturally balanced hormones
- Increased milk supply
- Prevention or relief of baby blues
- Faster postnatal recovery
- Replenished iron and other vitamin deficiencies, helping to prevent anemia
- Decreased duration of normal postnatal bleeding/Lochia
- Increased overall energy
- Decreased likelihood of PPD (postpartum depression) and insomnia/sleep disorders
- Uterus quickly returns to pre-pregnancy state
Hormones, vitamins and minerals behind the benefits
- Prolactin – the KEY hormone for lactation. It actually triggers the production of breast milk.
- Oxytocin – the KEY hormone for “let down” or release of breast milk. Also offers pain relief, encourages bonding and helps the uterus return to its normal size after childbirth.
- TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) – boosts energy and helps recovery from stressful events
- Urokinase – stops bleeding and encourages healing of wounds/tears/sutures
- Cortisone – fights stress and releases stored energy
- Interferon – stimulates the immune system to protect against infections
- Gamma globulin – immune booster that helps protect against postpartum infections
- Prostaglandins – anti-inflammatory
- Hemoglobin – replenishes iron deficiency which restores energy and helps ward off anemia, a common postpartum condition
- CRH – a stress reducer 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. Researchers conclude that the placenta secrets so much CRH that the hypothalamus stops producing it. Once the placenta is delivered, it takes some time for the hypothalamus to get the signal that the CRH levels are 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.
The process for saving and eating your placenta is actually simple. The hardest part is finding someone to do it. First, I suggest looking for a doula, midwife or acupuncturist. If they don’t do it, they will know someone who does. As we all know, sites like our very own Reno Moms Blog and other mommy groups are a good way to share information too. Once you find someone, check his or her references and/or licenses. Most importantly, you’ll want to be comfortable with the person you choose like you would with your personal care physician. Next, you’ll discuss the details including devising a plan to get the placenta to them, cost (mine was $225) and methods of saving the placenta (there are ways besides pill encapsulation). You’ll need to check with your medical doctor and/or hospital for their rules/regulations regarding this. My OBGYN was fine with it and my hospital allowed it.
Also, you’ll want your wishes written in your birth plan, and you’ll want to discuss it with your nurses and doctor while in the hospital, as your physician might not be the one delivering the baby. Put your husband, spouse, partner, parents or whomever will be there with you in charge of making sure your placenta is saved. Other than that, you’ll need a container (like Tupperware) for the placenta and a cooler. My hospital room had a fridge, so we didn’t need the cooler until my husband transported it to our doula.
Another piece of information to know is that your placenta must be healthy in order to be ingested. So, while you may want to save it for this purpose, you might not be able to use it. I received my pills two days after having my daughter and began taking them immediately following the instructions set out by my doula.
So, did the placenta pills work? Yes. I really feel they helped me heal faster. They warded off the “baby blues” and my uterus seemed to shrink faster. I felt like I had more energy and a shorter bleeding time. Since I had a child previously (in which case I didn’t save and eat my placenta), I had something to compare it to. I didn’t take all of my pills, and from what I understand most people won’t. However, placenta size varies and so will the amount it will yield. You can save them for times when you aren’t feeling your best and they can even be frozen until menopause sets in, as they are said to provide relief from those symptoms, as well. For now, the remainder of my pills are in my freezer waiting to put out hot flashes. Let’s hope that’s much later than sooner.