In the past, consuming your placenta after having your baby may have seemed like a practice exclusively for the patchouli-wearing, water-birth-favoring set, but thanks to big health benefits and celebrity proponents like Kim Kardashian, placenta consumption is now mainstream.
If the thought of slicing up and snacking on this organ, which nourishes your baby while you’re pregnant, make you a little squeamish, you aren’t alone.
But moms who have done it say don’t knock it until you try it. And the majority of today’s moms aren’t eating their placentas raw like our cousins in the animal kingdom. Many ladies are opting to have their placentas “encapsulated” — dehydrated and placed in pills they can swallow when needed.
We spoke to coveted Charlotte doula Sarah Cowherd, a.k.a. Sage Mama Doula, to find out everything we need to know about placenta encapsulation.
Moms who do it often see big benefits.
From increased breastmilk supply to greater energy and even avoiding postpartum depression, the perks of taking placenta pills are numerous, according to Cowherd’s clients. The benefits make sense: your placenta is packed with iron, vitamins and hormones that help sustain your baby in utero.
You probably won’t even need to see the placenta if you don’t want to.
“You can watch the process or not, and all you get back is a pretty jar of pills,” Cowherd said.
Many encapsulators will come to the hospital and pick up the placenta to prepare in their home or yours. Otherwise, you can bring a cooler to your delivery to transport your placenta home for encapsulation. The hospital will generally provide a container.
Just let the nurses know during delivery that you want to save yours — most hospitals discard it as medical waste after delivery. One caveat: some area hospitals might need you to sign a form allowing the placenta to be released. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure what your hospital’s policy is.
The finished product won’t look any different than a normal vitamin or herbal supplement.
Encapsulation is simple: a doula, midwife or other professional encapsulator (or yourself if you’re a DIY-er!) will take the placenta to your home or theirs, normally before you’ve even left the hospital, where he or she will clean and strip it down before steaming it, dehydrating it and turning it into powder that can be put inside capsules.
Cowherd said about half the professional placenta encapsulators in Charlotte make the capsules in the client’s home, and the other half do it in their own homes. If yours does it in your home, you’ll need to arrange for someone to let him or her into your house twice.
Pills are ready for consumption as soon as the dehydrated placenta is inside, and many moms start taking them as soon as they get home. Cowherd recommends starting with just one pill a day once you get home from the hospital, and adjusting dosage from there.
If you think encapsulating your placenta might be right for you, be ready to shell out between $175 and $300 in the Charlotte area. And you’ll need to make a reservation with your encapsulator sometime in your third trimester since that person will be “on call” for you around your due date.
Now for the flip side: Although there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that consuming your placenta works, the medical field hasn’t done many clinical trials, and some researchers say they haven’t seen much evidence of benefits (and more studies are needed to determine the risks).
But for Cowherd’s clients, and even Cowherd herself, the proof is in the results. She said she could tell a huge difference in milk supply and hormonal “ups and downs” when she took the pills versus when she didn’t.
“It’s a modernized version of a traditional remedy that various cultures have practiced going back to ancient civilizations,” Cowherd said. “The placenta is a really amazing organ your body creates along with your baby, and everyone should get credit for the work their body does. It made such a difference for me.”
Photo credit: Meg Hendry, Queen City Newborn Care