You have probably heard that some women eat their placentas and wondered what it was all about. There has certainly been some media attention recently with a number of celebrity mums stating that they have encapsulated and consumed their placenta following birth, so is this just a trend or are there genuine benefits? I sat down with Perth placenta encapsulation specialist Jenny Arnold from Encapsulate Me to find out more.
What is placenta encapsulation and why do it?
Placenta encapsulation is the process of having your placenta processed, dehydrated and placed into capsules for your oral consumption. The placenta has grown your baby and is full of stem cells, nutrients, minerals and hormones. A common misconception is that the placenta is a waste product to be discarded due to its role as a filter, preventing harmful environmental elements from reaching baby. However, these environmental elements occur in very small amounts and in reality our bodies are exposed to higher levels of harmful elements in processed foods. The placenta contains 7 times more iron than beef and can therefore help to replenish your iron stores after birth. The placenta has been a part of you and contains all of the goodness you have created to grow your baby, it makes sense to return it back to your body, doesn’t it? We are the only mammal not to consume the placenta after birth; all mammals eat the placenta to regain strength, to eliminate pain, to recover quickly, and to encourage their milk supply. If we can just get over the ‘yuck factor’ this makes total sense. A placenta specialist makes your placenta into palatable capsules that do not at all resemble the placenta as it looks after birth.
What benefits do mums report from taking placenta capsules?
I always ask my mums to write me a review after they have been taking the capsules for 3 – 4 weeks so that other mums can hear their stories. I honestly haven’t had any negative responses, all mothers have reported that they have had so much energy, which is needed in huge amounts when you have a newborn! Mums who had a caesarean section have reported recovering faster than they expected, with less pain relief needed. In general, second-time mums report that their recovery time is quicker, compared to their previous experience without the capsules. Women have also reported that their milk has ‘come in’ quicker with the capsules, even after just two doses, with a couple of women reducing their dose due to engorgement (which could be attributed to other factors). The main reported benefit has been in women with previous postnatal depression who have stated that they did not get it again, with this being their primary reason for encapsulating. The science behind this is that the hypothalamus in the brain floods the placenta with stress hormones prior to birth, to aid the woman in coping with labour and birth. The hypothalamus then stops producing these hormones and can be delayed in starting again following the birth. This is where some women experience depressive symptoms and where consuming the placenta (which is still rich in hormones) as a supplement can assist until hormone production regulates. Low iron stores have also been shown to affect mood and taking iron-rich placenta capsules alongside iron supplements can replenish iron stores and assist with mood regulation. Women’s experiences blow me away every time, it just makes me more passionate to share this amazing service with as many women as I can.
What certifications do you hold?
It is important to check out Placenta Services Australia to find the right specialist for you as all practitioners registered on the site are appropriately qualified. I decided to train with the Association of Placenta Preparation Arts (APPA), their course in considered gold standard in the field. I worked hard to complete this course which was very in-depth and took me over 7 months. If you ask a practitioner questions they should be able to provide all the information you need, show you certificates and you could even check out their workspace, as this should be restaurant grade and not in their own kitchen.
Is it safe?
It is safe as long as you find the right practitioner, unfortunately there are many rogues out there who have taught themselves on YouTube etc. Although regulation is coming, it is not here yet, meaning that anyone can provide this service without the correct qualifications. The guidelines and procedures for processing, safe sanitation and sterilisation are very strict with APPA; we cannot use any equipment that has not been tested by the organisation. Recent research has shown that by using APPA processing procedures, all bacteria is removed from the dried placenta and it is very safe for consumption. The right practitioner will have their food safety certificate and blood borne pathogens certificates, but I would still recommend the extra certificate from APPA or another training body with a good reputation, do your research!
What do the capsules taste like?
I’ve asked women this question and most say they don’t taste of anything, some say they have a slight metallic taste from the iron content. I mainly use vegetable gelatin free capsules but I also have flavoured gelatin capsules in bubblegum, lime and berry, which taste quite fruity. These are popular with women who really want to encapsulate but still just cant quite get past the slight yuck factor.
How can you assure me that the capsules I receive are from my own placenta?
I only process one placenta at a time to ensure there is no cross contamination, if I did have to process two in one day I would thoroughly sterilise and sanitise my workspace and equipment before I started on the second. The most important thing is to build trust in your practitioner, to know they have the correct certificates and are passionate and professional in what they do. If you have any doubts don’t proceed with them, find another!
How do I get my placenta to you?
Each hospital may have a different policy for storage of your placenta so this will need to be discussed at consultation. It is very important that you tell the midwife caring for you that you are keeping your placenta, this is your responsibility to make sure your placenta doesn’t get lost, especially if you have a caesarean section, advise your partner to do this for you. If a hospital will not provide storage of your placenta after your birth, I advise clients to take an esky and get a relative to bring along ice or icepacks to place around your bagged/contained placenta until I can get to the hospital to pickup. I work four days a week elsewhere so will endeavour to fetch your placenta as soon as I can after my working day. As long as your placenta is refrigerated or on ice within 2-3 hours after the birth it will be fine and safe. Individual arrangements can be made, depending on the situation, for drop off at my house, however, I always make myself available to pick up your placenta as soon as physically possible and return it to you within 24-36hrs of your birth.
If you would like to know more about Placenta Encapsulation or the service that Jenny from Encapsulate Me provides you can find her website and contact details here. Or you can find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Australian Medical Association due to the nature of this service. (Encapsulate Me!) makes no medical treatment claims. Services provided are not clinical, pharmaceutical, or intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. Families who choose to utilise these services take full responsibility for their own health and product usage.