Placenta Encapsulation and Ingestion

August 19, 2008

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Carrie:  You’re back with Carrie at Natural Mom’s Talk Radio.  I am joined this week by Jodi Selander, with http://www.placentabenefits.info.  Good morning, Jodi.

Jodi:  Good morning, Carrie.

Carrie:  We’ve had some pretty unusual topics on this show before, but this one is definitely one of the top unusual topics, I have to say.  I’m pretty sure this show is going to get some definite interest and comments and questions and such.  Okay, your web site is all about the benefits of placenta encapsulation.

Jodi:  That’s right.

C:  So, let’s just do a quick overview of what that is.  What is placenta encapsulation, and why would a mom consider doing it?

J:  Well, basically, what I advocate through the web site placentabenefits.info is when a  woman has her baby, saving the placenta and through a fairly easy method, it can be dried, and then ground and put into capsules.  Then she can take those capsules for the first few weeks post partum, and they help her recover from the birth and the pregnancy much more quickly than she would do on her own.

C:  The first thing that comes to mind when I saw your web site was that this is something that a lot of animals do naturally.  For some reason, they have that instinctive wisdom to do that.

Is this something that is becoming more popular in recent years?  How did you get into this line of work?

J:  I got into it due to my own – I have some issues with depression.  During my first pregnancy, I didn’t know about this option, and I was on actual medical pharmaceutical antidepressants.  They had me stay on those through her pregnancy, and after she was born.  After I had her, I had some issues postpartum.

After she was born, I started doing a lot of research, and finding more natural ways of dealing with health and nutrition and things like that.  So when I got pregnant with my second daughter, I wanted to have a completely natural pregnancy.  I didn’t want to be on pharmaceuticals, and I went off my antidepressants at that time.

During my pregnancy, I heard about placenta, and using the placenta perhaps to stave off postpartum depression.  I was very curious about it, because here was a natural option that I could use.  I was no longer on pharmaceuticals and I didn’t want to go back on.  I started researching it, and it was just mentioned.  I wanted to find out if there was any actual research to back this up, or if this was just something that was just talked about among the very natural women.

I started doing the research, and I found that it was very compelling.  There was a lot of health and nutrition and a lot of benefits to be gained by the placenta.

And when I found out that you could actually make it into capsules, I was absolutely willing to give it a try.  While I wasn’t personally comfortable with eating it, per se, I could definitely take a few capsules.

So when my second daughter was born, I had a homebirth, and I had a special bowl set aside for the placenta.  My midwife put it right in there, and it went right into the fridge.  The next day, I started doing a process to prepare it and make the capsules. Within a few days, I was taking her capsules.

I had a fabulous post partum recovery.  I had a lot of energy, I never had any sort of blues or weepiness, or feeling like I couldn’t handle having – I had my three year old daughter at the time and my newborn, and was breastfeeding.

I actually had so much energy that my midwife had to tell me to slow down. She was like “You are still recovering from the birth, and you have to take it easy.”  My uterus was shrinking back down to size more quickly than she would have anticipated, especially being a second time mom. I just felt really great.

And that’s what launched the whole movement, was my own experience.  Then I started doing the service for women here, in my community, in Las Vegas.  After doing it for seven months and hearing story after story from my clients, where they really feel that capsules helped them and it was beneficial, and once they do it, they would never give birth without doing it.  That’s when I launched the web site.  When I realized that it wasn’t just me, or her, it wasn’t just her, this really helped women, and I really wanted to start a dialog about it.  It just was not being discussed openly.

C:  Right.  Wow.  You’ve talked about some anecdotal reports of women, and your own experience.

Is there any medical research that has shown that using the placenta has any benefits?  What is it about the placenta that is so beneficial?  What is it, specifically?  Is it the hormones?  Is it something else?

J:  There has been some research out there.  Let me go back to the fact that the placenta has been used medicinally for centuries.  Chinese medicine has been preparing the placenta for medical use for hundreds of years.Plastic placenta 2
Creative Commons License photo credit: damph

C:  I didn’t know that.

J:  Yeah.  It’s one of the most powerful tonifying medicines in their arsenal.  It’s used for a wide variety of ailments.  The two that I latched onto as far as being beneficial for post partum women, is that TCM uses it to treat lactation and fatigue.

In the 50s, there was a study done where they took dried placenta, and they selected over 200 women who they felt were at risk for having insufficient milk production for their babies. They gave part of the group dried placenta.  Since they weren’t sure by which mechanism the placenta would increase milk production, they thought perhaps it was the protein in it.  They did a control group with like dried beef.

They found that the dried placenta group had a significant increase in mil production in about 86% of the cases within 4 days of taking placenta.  They found that pretty much 100% of the women over the course of seven days had an increase in milk production in the placenta group.  That really backed up the TCM principles of placenta for lactation.

C:  It sounds like there’s more going on there than just – you can’t just compare the placenta to an organ meat, which is highly nutritious.  There’s something else going on.

J:  There is something else.  It wasn’t the protein, so it’s not just the fact that it’s a meat, kind of.  There is something else going on.  They were not able to discover exactly the mechanism.

What it could be is that the placenta, being an endocrine organ, meaning that it induces hormones, does retain hormones upon the birth.  There’s a wide variety of hormones that the placenta is instrumental in regulating in a pregnant woman’s body.  One of those is prolactine, which is a milk producing hormone, and, of course, oxytosen.  It could be one of those, and further study would need to be done to see if those are exactly the mechaammanisms by which it does increase milk production.

So those are the studies.  Anecdotally, as well, I’ve had clients who have had a first baby, they weren’t able to produce as much milk as they would like.  With their next child, they went ahead and encapsulated the placenta, and found that it did indeed increase.  They had a much easier time nursing their second child.  That is one of the key benefits, then.  If you are worried about milk production, it is something very safe and natural that you can try.
Creative Commons License photo credit: diluvi

The other main benefit, according to the TCM, traditional Chinese Medicine principle is fatigue.  And that is the other thing that I’ve really found, is that the capsules really help you with feeling so wiped out after the birth and after the pregnancy.  It really gives you a lot of energy, just makes you feel a whole lot better.

The mechanism behind that, we feel is likely due to the high iron content of the placenta. It’s packed with iron.  They’ve found that by supplementing with iron, it actually staves off the post partum fatigue that can occur.  Now, post partum fatigue and iron deficiency are both key factors in the development of post partum depression later on.  If we can kind of knock out, two of the big risk factors for post partum depression, then we can logically assume that it will probably help post partum depression down the road.

What I always talk about is that placenta is great for avoiding the baby blues, because postnatal mood disorders are a wide spectrum.  It can go all the way from baby blues, being the “mildest” form, all the way over to post partum psychosis.

The majority of women, 80% or more, suffer with some sort of post natal mood instability. Because your body will eventually regulate itself, and because the majority of women suffer from it, it’s not really considered even a disorder.  So women that have all these symptoms, the weepiness the irritability, the mood fluctuations, feelings of anxiety, just beinSleeping afterg overwhelmed, crying jags, things like that, they have these symptoms for a period of weeks, but they aren’t  able to get any help or support from it, because your body will eventually regulate itself.

So that’s what I advocate using the placenta for.  Why go through that, even for a few weeks?  For anyone that’s just had a baby, that’s the last thing that you want to be dealing with.

C:  Yeah.  I remember with my oldest, having that period of weepiness, the baby blues.  Just hearing over and over that it was normal, and I remember, at the time I lived in an apartment that was on the second story, and it was hot summer, but it was really beautiful weather.  I had the windows open.  I remember every time I would walk past my window to get to my bed, I would have this overwhelming fear that I was going to throw the baby out the window.  It really caused me a lot of anxiety.  Something was going to trip me, or some vacuum was going to inexplicably suck the baby out of the window.  I just thought “Oh, that’s normal.”  I had read that that’s normal, and blah, blah, blah.  Common and normal is not the same thing.

J:  Exactly. It’s common.  Becoming a mother is stressful, and you just want to do everything right. When you’re sort of having these strange thoughts and crying … Women internalise everything.  “What’s wrong with me?”  “Why am I feeling this way?”  “Does this mean I’m not a good mother?”  Let’s just avoid all that.  Does something that can really help make us feel a whole lot better.  All we want to do is feel normal, feel like ourselves.  I found that the placenta can really help with that.

C:  Why do you suppose that this has not caught on more than it has?  I’m sure that for a lot of my listeners, this would be the first that they’re hearing of it.

J:  I think that’s the main reason, is I just don’t think that it was spoken about at a level where the majority of women would be able to hear about it.  It’s been talked about, and midwives have known about the benefits for decades, and often encourage their clients to go ahead and ingest the placenta after the baby’s born.

But being modern women, that’s kind of a hard concept to get around, actually cooking it, or eating it.  That’s not something that the majority of women are going to do.  That’s the way it’s been presented, is make a smoothy, Placenta Pizza, there’s all these recipes and things.

I think that is just not something the majority of women can get their head around.  I couldn’t.  But the capsules are a very easy way to make this accessible to the majority of women.  Anybody can take a capsule.  I know a lot of us who do take charge of our own health, we do take herbs and various concoctions, and we’re used to taking herbal supplements.

So this, just the encapsulation part, I think really makes it accessible.  Hopefully now, through speaking to you and getting to your audience, with the web site, I’m just really trying to get it out there so that at least women know that it’s an option, and it’s something they can do.  Because you can’t have informed choice without knowing all the options.

C:  Right.  That’s right.  For me, I had three of my babies at home, so I still have three placentas in my freezer.  For a mom who’s giving birth in the hospital, is it possible for her to keep her placenta?  I noticed on your blog that you’re kind of celebrating that a mom won the battle to take her placenta.

To me, it’s just amazing that it’s even a conversation.  You birthed it out of your body, why is it a fight to keep it? I don’t understand that.  Talk to us a little bit more about that.  What would a mom do who had a hospital birth?

J:  Each individual hospital can make its own policy.  There is only one state in this country that protects a woman’s right to take the placenta home from the hospital after it’s born.  That is Hawaii.  No other state has any legislation.  It’s up to the individual hospitals.  Here in Las Vegas, I’ve worked with many of the hospitals.  I’ve gone in and spoken to the staff.  I have really tried to create this dialog about it.  Because I would have clients go in and ask for their placenta.  A lot of times, this is the first time they’ve had that request.  Any time it’s a first time, it’s unusual, there’s a lot of fear.  Coming from the hospital community, the placenta is regarded as medical biohazard waste instead of being a part of the baby.  We’ve had to do some advocacy and things like that.

There  was one hospital who had the request last year, the first one, and they told the woman that she couldn’t have it without a court order because someone at the hospital, [this is my personal opinion], but somebody at the hospital was personally offended by what she intended to do with it.  So they started this whole legal battle.  We won the court order last year, and the judge told them that it was hers.  She didn’t have any communicable diseases. She didn’t have HIV or Hepatitis C, or anything that would create a public health risk.  It was hers, and she could choose what to do with it, and it was basically none of their business.  So they had to give her the placenta.

Subsequently, I had four clients go to that same hospital, and they were told the very same thing.  “You can’t have the placenta without a court order.”  So here, we won this whole battle, and we thought we made some progress.  And here, they just decided to make every single woman go through the same thing.  A lot of moms, they just want to have the baby, they don’t want to cause trouble, they’re worried that fighting for it will cause some issues with staff, so they just let it go.

Then in April of this year, one of my clients said “I’ll go ahead and get the court order.  I want the placenta, I should have it, it’s part of the baby, and I want to do this.”  She went ahead and started proceedings to go to court, and then I again started organizing the protest, and sending out press releases basically saying that despite a former ruling, this hospital is still not mother friendly.  The same day that this woman, Erin Martinez was her name, she filed the paperwork; the press releases came out in the paper.  The hospital started getting calls, asking “What is this policy, and why are you continuing to deny women their placenta?”  They reversed their stance.

I had a call from a hospital spokeswoman, saying “We just wanted to let you know, we’re going to give her her placenta.”  So, by this time, knowing what their stance was, I was like “This is wonderful, and thank you.  That’s great.  But what about the next woman who asks?”  They said that they were revising their guidelines and would be releasing the placentas to women who requested them, given that they’re healthy of course.  Then we had, instead of a protest, a celebration rally the following Monday, and thanked the hospital.  Now, every hospital in Las Vegas releases placentas to mothers upon request.  It can be done.

Hospitals are businesses, and if their clients start requesting this, and saying that this is something that they want, women do have a choice where to give birth. If your hospital will not support your wishes, then you can choose to birth somewhere else, somewhere that will support your personal choice.

All I suggest is that she ask.  Just call ahead, don’t wait until the day of the birth.  Call ahead and talk to the nursing staff.  Ask to speak to a charge nurse if necessary.  Just start the dialog.  Say “This is something that I want to do.” You don’t have to say “I’m planning to eat it,” or anything like that.  A lot of times they’ll ask, just because they’re curious, but you don’t have to tell them just start the dialog, before you have the baby, to see what your hospital says.

C:  Good idea.  If there’s any time in a woman’s life where she’s entitled to make noise, it would be at her birth.

J:  Absolutely.

C:  Make trouble, be trouble.

J:  We can be empowered about our birth choices.  And, on the front page of the web site, too, with http://www.placentabenefits.info, you can go there and I have a whole page of tips on how to get your placenta released from the hospital.  It’s a common question, so I have a whole guide, basically, for how to do that.  If a woman is curious, I do have that all written out for you.

C:  How does a person find someone to do this encapsulation?

J:  We have developed a placenta encapsulation specialist training and certification course, where I’m getting women set up in communities all across the country to do this, to do the placenta encapsulation service for women in their community.  If you want to have this done, you can actually have a person who’s been trained and knows what she’s doing, and is knowledgeable about the process and how to handle placentas.  They’ll come right to your home.  You get the placenta home, and they’ll come right to your home and take care of it for you.  You never have to deal with anything.  All you end up with are the capsules, and you can start taking them just a few days post partum, then.

You can come to http://www.placentabenefits.info, click on find a specialist, and it’s all listed there by state, the service providers.  If there’s not somebody in your state currently certified and practicing, I do have the do-it-yourself encapsulation kit.  I give you the instructions, I tell you how to do it, I give you most of the basic supplies you’ll need, and you or your Mom, or husband can actually do the encapsulation process for you.

C:  And how complicated is that?  Tell us a little bit more about what it entails?

J:  It does entail some work in the kitchen, so you need to be somewhat handy in the kitchen.  But if you can cook a meal for your family, then you can pretty much prepare placenta.

C:  Okay.  Cool.  Well, and one more question.  How long does a Mom take placenta after her baby is born?

J:  She only needs to take the capsules for at least two weeks, and then she can start weaning off and see how she feels.  I have some clients who take them every day until she runs out of capsules.  That usually takes about five or six weeks post partum.  But most of the time, they’ll start weaning off after about two weeks, so two to three weeks post partum.

C:  It’s interesting.  I was going to ask how long does the placenta last if you encapsulate it and take it every day.  Because five to six weeks is the traditional – across many cultures, post partum women are encouraged to take it easy for that length of time.  That’s an interesting coincidence there.

J:  It is, isn’t it?

C:  Jodi, thank you so much for sharing this information with us.  This is definitely awesome for moms to know, that it’s an option, especially if they’ve had issues in the past with post partum depression.  But really, for all moms who just want to have the best post partum experience possible.  Thank you so much.

J:  You’re very welcome.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it with your audience.  I appreciate that, as well.

Creative Commons License photo credit: benklocek

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Comments

4 Responses to “Placenta Encapsulation and Ingestion”

  1. Angela on August 20th, 2008 4:23 pm

    Fascinating! I’d never heard of this but will investigate it as a way to boost my iron levels.

    Questions I have though — what’s the price range usually for encapsulation, and is it possible to have a placenta dried and encapsulated if the placenta was frozen after the birth (4 weeks ago in my case)?

  2. carrie on August 20th, 2008 4:32 pm

    Hey Angela – I have no idea, but forwarded your email on to Jodi. I’m sure she can be more helpful – also check her site, PlacentaBenefits.info

    :-)

  3. Jodi Selander on August 20th, 2008 6:18 pm

    Hey Angela,
    It is possible to still use a frozen placenta. If the placenta was frozen soon after the birth, within the first 24 hours, and has remained frozen the entire time, you can certainly still use it. Four weeks is not too long at all, and I highly encourage you to make use of it! You will still get the benefits of increased energy and milk production.

    Feel free to email me with any other questions!

    Jodi

  4. Liz Wood on August 27th, 2008 11:07 am

    I usually find your podcasts interesting, but this one repulses me! I don’t think it’s a good idea to ingest a human placenta, even in dried, powdered, encapsulated form. If the ladies here would stop a minute and think of what this means, they might realize we are considering cannabalism here! What other body parts do we ingest, even if we aren’t using them anymore? Fingernails? Hair? Tonsils? I don’t think it’s wise to consider the ancient practices of the atheistic Chinese civilization as inherently good. I’m pretty sure the Chinese also eat dog, as well as the human fetus… probably believing it will give them youth or something.

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