Placenta Encapsulation: Questions and Answers
Placenta Encapsulation is becoming a more widely known process that many women believe aides in their postpartum healing process. Resurging in the middle of the 20th century this process takes a placenta and turns it into supplement-like capsules for women to ingest with ease and comfort
While there are many reported benefits of ingesting the placenta, there are still some skeptics, objections, and questions. We hope that we can clear up a few of these for you today with the research that we have available to us.
Objection: There are no studies to support the ingestion of placenta as beneficial.
Answer: Actually, there have been many studies performed to evaluate different effects of placentophagy i.e. the consumption of the placenta. Many of these studies don’t have definitive results because of the strict standards of scientific studies in regards to sample size and type etc, but there are many benefits reported by women in these studies that should be taken into account when deciding if consuming your placenta is right for you. One such study evaluates the effects consumption of the placenta had on milk production. Of the 210 women who participated, 181 reported good or very good results in regards to increased milk production. (1)
Objection: If the placenta is a filter for the baby’s waste, why would I consume it?
Answer: The idea that the placenta is simply a filter is one that is untrue. While the placenta does act as a way to filter out the waste that the baby gives off in utero, it also allows for the exchange of nutrients and gases as well as keep the maternal and fetal blood supplies separate. The waste that the placenta does filter out is removed by the mother’s liver and kidneys and is not stored in the placenta.
Objection: What if the baby passes meconium? Does this make the placenta too contaminated to consume?
Answer: Meconium is the first bowel movement passed by the baby and sometimes it is passed in utero due to various reasons. This first bowel movement is made up of materials ingested by the baby while in the womb, including amniotic fluid, bile, mucus, epithelial cells, and lanugo. While meconium used to be considered sterile and therefore not an issue during encapsulation, recent studies have confirmed that meconium does contain certain bacteria but not any bacteria that should be concerning. Additionally, when the placenta is processed it is thoroughly washed and when using the TCM method, which involves steaming, any bacteria present will be killed.
Objection: Animals only eat their placentas so they aren’t found by predators.
Answer: A common misconception is that only wild prey animals eat their placenta. Evidence doesn’t support this theory as carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores are all observed to consume their placentas. (2) These including those who are domesticated such as cats, dogs, cows, and rabbits, and those who have no natural predators such as wolves and bears.
Objection: Placenta consumption is just a fad and doesn’t have any real benefits.
Answer: When you think about it, all modern medicine can be considered a fad. Placenta being used for medicinal purposes has been around much longer than modern medicine. There are countless women who would argue that they did indeed receive benefits from ingesting their placentas as well.
Question: How does consuming my placenta help with postpartum depression?
Answer: Studies suggest that virtually all postpartum women suffer from iron deficiency and that this deficiency may lead to fatigue symptoms. (3) This “anemia fatigue” is thought to be one factor of many that may affect postpartum mood and/or anxiety disorders. While it is not definitive, these studies suggest a correlation between the increased iron intake from placenta consumption and the improvement of mood in the postpartum period.
Answer: There are studies that suggest that placenta consumption encourages milk production in up to 86% of women who consumed their placenta as well as countless reports by women who attest the same.
Question: Will the placenta give me more energy?
Answer: Placentas are shown to have many nutrients including protein, fat, fiber, iron, magnesium and much more. Postpartum women often suffer the effects of low levels of iron stores as well as other hormones that may affect her energy levels. (4) Many people infer from this information that when she consumes the placenta she replaces many of these lost stores which in turn help to give her more energy.
Question: Can I still encapsulate my placenta if I am GBS positive?
Answer: Yes. Depending on your encapsulation method (raw or TCM), encapsulation should be perfectly safe. Most women who test positive for Group B strep will have at least 2 rounds of antibiotics before birth which keeps the bacteria from spreading to the baby, or the placenta in our case. The bacteria is also killed when the TCM method is used due to the heat of the steaming process.
Question: Can I encapsulate if I have a cesarean birth?
Answer: Yes. Depending on the reasons for the cesarean, encapsulation should be fine. If the cesarean was due to fever or infection, the hospital may want to keep the placenta for evaluation by the pathology department but an uncomplicated cesarean birth should not pose any problems for encapsulation.
- Soyková-Pachnerová E, Brutar V, Golová B, Zvolská E, Placenta as a Lactagogon. Gynecol Obstet Invest 1954;138:617-627
- Soyková-Pachnerová, E., Brutar, V., Golová, B., & Zvolská, E. (1954). Placenta as a Lactagogon. Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, 138(6), 617-627. doi:10.1159/000308239
- Corwin, E. J., & Arbour, M. (2007). Postpartum Fatigue and Evidence-Based Interventions. MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 32(4), 215-220. doi:10.1097/01.nmc.0000281959.71454.e5)
- Bodnar, L. M., Cogswell, M. E., & Mcdonald, T. (2005). Have we forgotten the significance of postpartum iron deficiency? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 193(1), 36-44. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2004.12.009)