Weekend Chats: A Case For Placenta Encapsulation

I have had a lot of interest from you guys about placenta encapsulation and my experience with it. It makes me so happy that you are interested because I found it so helpful and I want to tell you about my experience after using encapsulation after both of my children. 

First things first, why did I do it? When I became pregnant with Kellen, like most mothers to-be, I dove head first into researching all different types of topics. I read briefly about placenta encapsulation because, at the time, was linked into the "crunchy" trend and was lumped in with many hot-button topics I had interest in. I had not given it a lot of thought until I spoke with my doula Emily at one of our first meetings. It was a service that she offered to clients and I decided to dig a little deeper into all things placenta before making a decision. As a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional and not certified, experienced, or trained in any type of encapsulation processes other than being a consumer, and any opinions I have are my own based on my own experience and results. 

In the wild, most animals eat the placenta after birth partially for survival to cover the birth from predators and instinctive nature of the mother.  I wasn't thinking that taking a big ol' bite of mine sounded like a pleasant idea after birthing my baby, but thankfully there are other ways to ingest and get the benefits. I have never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but I was very aware that postpartum depression impacts mothers who may not have experienced depression or other mental health issues prior to becoming pregnant or giving birth. In my research, I found many stories of women who experienced smooth post birth recovery including faster healing and shorter bleeding, increased energy, hormone balancing, decreased high and low mood swings, and increased milk supply. At the time, there was not a lot of clinical research that was done, but there were many personal stories from women who had elected this as an option. After reading the benefits my husband and I were both sold. I figured that it was not going to hurt anything even if it did not work. My feeling at the time was that I might only have one shot to have a baby because you never know your reproductive future and I wanted to give myself all the tools I could to succeed. I also wanted to be healthy in body and mind while in early postpartum for my benefit as well as my son and husband. 

Our next step was coordinating with our doula because she would take the placenta from the hospital to prep at her home and then return it to me. My doula was going to be with me at the birth and the transition would be easy and I (or my husband) would let the providers know of my intent when we got to the hospital. I did speak with my doctor about it during an appointment and he advised to let the staff know at delivery there was no reason that the placenta could not leave the hospital if there were no complications. 

The big day came and Kellen was born and my placenta left the hospital with my doula. A few days later she dropped off the processed placenta ready for ingesting. The question I get the most often is, "how do you eat it?". My placenta was steamed, dried, crushed and put into pills (The photo above is from Rowan's placenta, but Kellen's pills looked the same). Some women opt to cook theirs, have it in a smoothie, or just eat it raw. I selected pills because it sounded the easiest for me and most effective over a longer period of time..  I started taking the pills right when I got them from our doula and it was also when Kellen was in the NICU. I took 1-2 pills with each meal until they were gone (I am not sure how many I had with Kellen, but Rowan's placenta yielded about 180 pills and his placenta was on the larger side).

At the time, I had nothing to compare how I would be feeling to because this was my first child. However, there are things I can attest to while I was taking the pills. I had great energy for getting up multiple times per night and for needing to make multiple trips to the NICU each day while recovering from a vaginal delivery. I had some high/low mood swings and this is normal after giving birth while hormones are fluctuating (and having an inpatient baby), but I did not have extreme high/low or prolonged roller coaster type feelings. I gave birth to a 10 1/2 pound baby and I felt that I was able to heal quickly and did not have excessive bleeding. My milk also came in quickly and the amount multiplied relatively quickly for having a baby that was not with me 24 hours a day for the first 5 days. The most important thing to me was that I felt present, positive about myself, and connected to my role as a mom. From friends of mine that have had postpartum depression many of them described a disconnect to the world around them and/or to their child. I did not experience this, and I felt very in the moment and overall well. I think that my ability to process what happened to Kellen and I in those early days was because I had a pretty clear head and, how I always describe it, I was in a good place when it came to postpartum mental health.

Having the experience I had with Kellen it was a no brainer for me that I would do this with our next child. I hoped that I would have the same positive experience as I did with Kellen. When I was pregnant with Rowan I planned to have my placenta encapsulated into pills just as I had with Kellen. My friend Emily was my doula again and would process the placenta as she had the first time. However, the difference this time was that she was going to process in my home and not hers. I liked the idea of it being in my home because the placenta would be exposed to things I was living in each day and I know that my home is clean (not that Emily's isn't!), but sometimes you may not know the person processing your placenta as well as I knew mine or you may not have visited their house.  I again spoke with my doctor about my plans and she had issues with my plan and I was excited to move forward.

My doula processed my placenta while I was at home and I could peek over and see what she was doing. I actually wish I would have watched the entire thing, but Rowan was in the NICU at the time and I was just trying to focus on resting before returning to the hospital. Like last time, I started taking the pills as soon as they were ready to ingest.

So what the second time as good as the first? It was better my friends. Seriously. I felt/feel really good and I think that speaks a lot to the effectiveness of the pills considering I had a child in the NICU for almost 2 weeks. My energy was really good and when Rowan came home I was still feeling good even with a newborn's sleeping and feeding schedule. You will also remember from this post that we were struggling with breast feeding when he came home and I was very worried about supply. The pills, along with some supplements made by a friend, were so helpful....in fact I am now over producing, but that will likely change when I am back at work in two weeks. I, again, describe my mental health as present and good after Rowan's birth. I also felt that I healed even faster with Rowan and that is a good thing considering what a large baby he was. This time I also opted to get a tincture from the powdered placenta in addition to the pills. I can use the placenta tincture after the capsules are gone as needed.  By tincturing some of the powdered placenta in high grade alcohol I will continue to utilize benefits of the placenta. Tinctures can be used in times of  change, emotional times, hormonal fluctuations, or later in life during menopause. I am still amazed at the amazing things this organ can do.

My placenta was processed by Emily with Green Bay Doulas. They have a great info and FAQ section of their website. Click here to read more about their encapsulation services.  I also wanted to include another helpful link that addressed questions to ask your placenta encapsulation specialist. Click here for more details and FAQ answered by Green Bay Doulas. 

A few tips from my experience being a consumer of encapsulation as requested by you guys:
1) Make sure that you know the process at the hospital with your specialist and that your partner is also aware. It is helpful to include this in your birth plan so it can be included in your chart and you will need to call the person processing if they are not a labor doula for you.
2) Ask about where your placenta is processed. I received this question from a few people about an unseen processing site. If you select someone that does it in their home ask questions on their process. It should not just be thrown in their fridge unlabeled next to a few juice boxes or processed next to dirty dishes. That is gross. I think there is nothing wrong with asking to see the storage site and processing site. I would never hire someone who told me no to that request. You could also ask if preparing in your home is a possibility. Like I said previously, I have had one in home and one out, but not everyone has the same relationship with their doula as I did.
3) The second comment I received from many of you was apprehension that you knew it was your placenta. Make sure that your placenta specialist has an establish "chain of command".  Many of these individuals have great relationships with the hospitals and are very aware of protocol and procedure.
4) Be a careful consumer and use referrals. Odds are that if someone is good at what they do lots of people will be happy to tell you about it! If someone does have negatives I think it is important to look at if it is of a personal nature or if it actually has to do with their processing procedure or customer service.
5) Finally, someone asked me if the pills taste gross. The pills will have a funky taste/smell- they are a dried organ after all! This is normal, but I don't think I will chew one up anytime soon. Take it with food and lots of water. It is worth it!

I know there have been a few studies that have attempted to dispel claims of encapsulation's success, but I really can't put much stock into those because I have had two very positive experiences. For me, it made me a better mother from the starting gate and, like I have said before, I put weight on setting yourself up for success. I attribute my ability to be recover and enjoy my babies are much as I do to electing this option. I am a big believer in this and I am sure that it doesn't work for everyone (nothing works for everyone), but it worked wonders for me and that is what makes me so insistent on telling other mom's about this option.  Again, I highly recommend reading the links I posted about the FAQ's, and if you have more questions about my experience please feel free to e-mail me at cheesecurdinparadise@gmail.com or leave me a comment and I will reply.