By Anne Ferguson
Did your nurse, midwife or doctor ask you this after you gave birth?
Probably not, but you might be surprised to learn that in Twin Cities hospitals, this question is becoming more common.
And what might a new mom do with her placenta? Well, some choose to bury it in the backyard under a tree, but many others are choosing placenta encapsulation.
I was a Mom just like you once. My midwives mentioned the idea of placenta encapsulation when I was preparing for the birth of my second son three and a half years ago. I’m usually drawn to anything outside the mainstream, and knew bringing a second child into the family was a huge adjustment, so I decided to give it a try. I had a great experience and two years later when I became a birth doula, I knew I wanted to provide this service to clients.
Although comprehensive research on the benefits of placenta encapsulation is scarce, the feedback I receive from my clients paints a pretty clear picture. Moms who choose placenta encapsulation report the following benefits: better mood, more energy, an overall feeling of wellness, better iron levels, and an increased milk supply.
Placenta encapsulation is a fairly easy process. There are two methods to choose from, the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method and the Raw method.
With the TCM method, the placenta is gently steamed, then sliced into thin strips and dehydrated overnight. Once completely dry, the placenta pieces are ground into a powder and put into capsules.
With the Raw method, the steaming step is skipped, and the placenta is sliced and dehydrated raw. The dried pieces are ground and put into capsules so the end product is the same.
Each method has its own benefits. For the TCM method, the following benefits should be considered:
• TCM capsules provide a warming and sustained energy that has been used for centuries.
• In Chinese Medicine, raw foods are considered “cooling” and not suitable for the tonifying purposes of nourishing blood and restoring energy for a postpartum mother.
• Cooking may actually release essential nutrients and make the beneficial properties of the placenta more available.
• Steaming first should destroy any viruses or pathogens that might be present, making it safer for the encapsulator and the mother consuming the placenta.
• Tends to dehydrate faster.
Benefits of the raw method are:
• More of a stimulant. Mothers report very high energy levels.
• You usually get more capsules and have to take fewer per day so they will last longer.
• Preserves any enzymes or hormones that may be destroyed when the placenta is heated above 118 degrees.
• Less equipment and clean-up.
Each mother will need to research the two methods to figure out which one is going to be the right fit for her.
Although the process is made easier by having some specific equipment, like a dehydrator and a capsule maker, it can be done at home by a friend or family member, or you can hire a birth professional to encapsulate your placenta for you. For people who are interested in the benefits of placenta encapsulation but do not want to deal with the placenta themselves, this is a great option. The encapsulator you hire will work with you to get the placenta after birth, and then will return approximately two days later with the capsules so you can start taking them right away. The majority of my clients birth at the hospital, and all metro area hospitals will release the placenta to the family.
In my experience, a person’s first response to the idea of placenta encapsulation is “What? Gross!” But then, with a little research and thought, most people come to the realization that this is a natural thing (most mammals eat their placentas after birth) and that there are no known negative side effects. Many of my clients decide “What’s the harm?” and go for it, and are very glad they did!
If you are interested in learning more and want to find someone to encapsulate your placenta, please visit Minnesota Placenta.
Anne Ferguson is a certified birth doula and Hypnobabies instructor who lives in Eden Prairie with her two sons and her husband Chris. Please visit her at Bywater Birth.