Consuming the placenta, called placentophagia, is a tradition that is becoming more popular in the US. Used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, the placenta is thought to have benefits such as increased milk production, hormone balance to help with postpartum mood disorders, increasing iron stores and increasing energy, and helping the postpartum body recover much faster. Some women will eat the placenta raw, either cut up in small pieces or blended in a smoothie. Some will cook it and eat it as a meal. Many use the traditional Chinese method of steaming it, dehydrating it, and grinding it to a powder to place into capsules and taken as a supplement. This is the method that At First Sight Doula services uses for our clients.
Placenta traditions are quite varied and yet quite similar across the globe. Many cultures have a similar reverence for the placenta as a giver of life and a keeper of health while some believe that the placenta can bring bad luck or prevent fertility if not treated/handled/buried properly. Whether “superstitions” about bad luck, spiritual beliefs about a “placenta twin” being a keeper or angel for the baby, or health beliefs regarding the nutrition of placenta consumption, one thing is certain; most cultures would be aghast at simply disposing of the placenta like common trash. More than just another organ, or a piece of medical waste, the placenta is completely unique to each child and each pregnancy. Mammalian life could not exist without the placenta and it has a perfect design and function. Part baby, part mother, the placenta is literally what bonds the two together and for many cultures, it is what spiritually bonds them as well.
Benefits of Placentophagia
Iron deficiency and related Fatigue
- >50% of women of reproductive age are affected by Iron deficiency. (2)
- There are some studies that suggest iron deficiency anemia is a contributing factor in postpartum fatigue. (1)
- Postpartum fatigue can also be a contributing factor in postpartum mood disorders. (1)
- Iron supplementation may decrease fatigue (1)
- Placenta contains 24% of daily values for Iron. (4)
- “iron treatment resulted in a 25% improvement (P < 0.05) in previously iron-deficient mothers’ depression and stress scales” (2)
Postpartum Mood Disorders and Hormone Imbalances
Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth. The percentages are even higher for women who are also dealing with poverty, and can be twice as high for teen parents. Ten percent of women experience depression in pregnancy. In fact, perinatal depression is the most common complication of childbirth (3)
- During pregnancy levels of hormones such as estrogens and progesterone rise steadily, in large part because of placental productions. After the placenta is removed at delivery, these hormone levels plunge to pre-pregnancy levels within 5 days. (6)
- It is theorized that this steep drop in hormones may contribute to postpartum depression. Some studies report estrogen supplementation significantly reduced postpartum depressive symptoms. (6)
- While studies show hormone levels in heat-dried placentas to be low in comparison to the physiologic levels in humans, placenta still has many nutritional benefits including the low levels of hormones present. (6)
While anecdotal, many women report feeling much more hormonally balanced after taking placenta supplements. Among these are women who did not take placenta supplementation after previous deliveries and noticed a significant difference in their postpartum emotional well-being.
There are studies that suggest that placenta consumption encourages milk production in up to 86% of women who consumed their placenta. (7) Anecdotally, countless reports by women claim placentophagia increases their milk supply. While these are not scientifically backed, many women trust the testimonies of real women they know and talk to.
Is baby getting enough milk? What to look for in the first six weeks:
- Weight Gain: A 5-7% weight loss in the first 3-4 days after birth is normal. Baby should regain birth weight by 2 weeks. Once your mature milk comes in, average weight gain is 6oz/week. If baby is losing weight, please call your pediatrician and contact a lactation professional such as an IBCLC, CLC or La Leche League leader.
- Wet Diapers: 5-6+ sopping wet diapers per day (after the 1st week). Expect 1 wet diaper on day one of life, increasing steadily each day until reaching 5-6 wet diapers per day by the end of the first week. Urine should be pale and mild smelling.
- Dirty Diapers: 3-4+ poopy diapers per day (after day 4). Stools start as dark meconium, morphing t
o green then brownish orange, then yellow by day 5. They should be the size of a quarter or larger. Normal breastfed baby poop is yellow, loose, even watery and may be seedy/curdy in appearance.
Even though taking your placenta pills should support a healthy milk supply, do not wait to get help from a qualified lactation consultant if you have breastfeeding concerns including milk supply, proper latch, etc. At First Sight Doula Services also offers lactation support through our CLC Devon Mullins. You should feel free contact us with any questions or if you prefer a referral to an IBCLC we are happy to provide that information.
What you get when you hire At First Sight Doula Services for your Placenta Encapsulation needs
At First Sight ONLY encapsulates in our clients homes as a way to offer our clients as much postpartum support as possible. Our clients are able to see the whole process from start to finish including our stringent sanitation procedures so you can be assured that you will receive a product that was carefully prepared with care and respect. We are able to answer any questions you may have about the process and you can be sure that it is your placenta that we are processing because it has never left your possession!
You will receive a transport kit in order to bring your placenta home from your birthing location along with instructions on how to store it until your specialist arrives to process it.
Umbilical Cord Keepsake
Your baby’s umbilical cord will be dried into a heart or another shape as a keepsake. Some mothers choose to include them in baby books, keepsake boxes or bury them ceremonially. What you choose to do with it is your choice. In certain cultures, it is tradition to bury the cord as a sign to keep the child grounded throughout their life and ensure they always return home. This keepsake is included for every placenta client as a part of the package.
Other Placenta Services
If you chose to utilize this service for an additional cost, you will find the 2oz bottle in your bag. Common dosage of 7-10 drops of tincture can be put in a glass of water or other beverage for the mother to drink during times of transition after her placenta pills are gone. Some women have reported using this placenta tincture for postpartum mood improvement and PMS and some save it for menopausal symptoms as it keeps almost indefinitely.
Placenta salves are another way to add the healing benefits of your placenta to your health regimen. Using the same herbs that are used in our belly binding belly paste and the ground and powdered placenta, we create a salve that can be used with belly binding, for skin irritation, scrapes, and perineal or cesarean scarring once healed.