I Want It All
umbilical cord keepsake,
Placenta encapsulation is a process in which a women’s placenta is dried, ground into a powder, and placed into capsules for ingestion through swallowing (similar to taking a vitamin supplement). Placentophagy, or the ingesting of one’s placenta, is growing in popularity among modern women around the world. In fact, using the placenta to benefit the new mother’s health has a history of thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Nearly all mammals have been observed to ingest their placentas after birthing, both in the natural environment and in cases of domestication (e.g., feline and canine pets). Although the exact reasons for placentophagy are currently not known, researchers suspect that there may be a chemical advantage for this behavior, positively affecting hormone levels or even the immune system of the mother.
What are the perceived benefits?
There are numerous potential reasons for considering placentophagy, including:
- Capsules contain iron, and may prevent iron-deficiency anemia
- Placenta is theorized to help prevent or lessen post partum fatigue (PPF), which is linked to post partum depression (PPD)
- Placenta has been shown to cause an increase in lactation (milk supply)
- Capsules contain hormones such as estrogens and progesterone, levels of which dramatically drop immediately after childbirth. It is theorized that ingesting the capsules may help lessen the physical and emotional effects of dropping hormone levels in the early days post partum.
How may placentophagy help to reduce, or perhaps even prevent PPD, general fatigue and iron deficiency during the postpartum period?
If sufficient iron levels can prevent fatigue, and if lack of severe fatigue can possibly prevent the onset of PPD, it would make sense that increasing iron intake as soon as possible during the postpartum period would be a benefit to the physical, mental and emotional state of a new mother, naturally resulting in making her a more effective caregiver for her newborn infant, which is why it can be argued that a logical connection exists for the treatment and/or avoidance of PPD with placentophagy as used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is clear that a women’s placenta contains an iron reserve. Although the amount of iron present varies according to the wet weight and therefore the blood content of the placentas, the iron present would be readily available and easily consumable by the mother if she participates in the practice of placentophagy.
How may placentophagy help with lactation (milk production of the new mother)?
One possible advantage to the consumption of the placenta involves lactation, for which it is traditionally used in TCM.
A study was conducted by Soyková-Pachnerová et al. (1954) in which new mothers were given dried placenta tissue. Out of 210 participating women, 86.2% experienced a positive effect on milk supply. For women who were given dried beef tissues instead of placenta, the beneficial effect was not observed, leading researchers to believe that simply ingesting protein is not the mechanism which positively affects milk production. Something other than protein must be responsible, which leads researchers to believe that the hormones present in the placenta are at play. So far, progesterone has not been shown to increase milk production, but other hormones stored within the placenta may be responsible for enhancing lactation.
As ingesting placental tissue was also found to increase the size and tenderness of the breasts in the aforementioned study, milk secretion and milk flow (an increase of 20g or more of milk per feed after placentophagy), even in women who were expected to encounter, or had already experienced nursing difficulties in the past (e.g., flat or unglandular breasts, previous bad or failed nursing), it makes sense that placentophagy is one option for new mothers to ensure adequate supply. As placental tissues are readily available for consumption after birth, placentophagy is perhaps one of the most accessible methods of increasing lactation, no matter where the mother lives (i.e., some other popular lactation aids, such as stinging nettle tea, may not be available around the world).
What effect does placentophagy have on a new mother’s hormones?
Ingesting placenta capsules during the postpartum period has been shown to cause changes in hormone levels in studies conducted using laboratory rats (Blank and Friesen, 1980). Study animals who birthed and ingested their placenta were found to have elevated levels of prolactin at 1 day postpartum, and depressed levels of progesterone on days 6 and 8 postpartum (when compared to non-eaters). An interesting note – no effect was found in the test animals when they ingested placental tissue from other mammals (e.g., cows, humans), or when injected with oestrogen hormones, suggesting that it is necessary for an animal to participate in placentophagy of its own tissues to experience hormonal benefits. This is further proof that the natural process of placentophagy in the wild likely serves a more complex, physiological purpose other than to simply clean the nest or birthing site. As the human placenta has been found to contain an array of hormones, including the very hormones that women are known to be deficient in postpartum – namely estrogens, progesterone, prolactin, oxytocin, thyroid hormones, CRH and cortisol as detailed above – it is plausible that ingesting one’s placenta through encapsulation could replenish diminishing hormone levels to some extent. This may serve as a buffer and help a new mother to adjust to the drastic decreases in hormone levels immediately following birth without the severe effects which often lead to fatigue and PPD.
How is the placenta processed into capsules?
As soon as possible after birth, the placenta is prepared in one of the two following ways, depending on the mother’s preference:
TCM method – steamed with organic oils and herbs as prescribed by TCM practices + dehydrated (dried) + ground + encapsulated
Is this safe for all involved parties?
I take the utmost precautions while processing my clients’ placentas, both for the protection of the client and myself/my family. All items which make contact with the placenta are either disposable (and therefore properly discarded after use), or are stainless steel and are sterilized through soaking and washing with boiling water and bleach and/or Dettol hospital-grade disinfectant, followed by a cycle in an electric dishwasher. I take precautions for my work area and myself through the use of disposable items including worktop liners, gloves, face masks, hair nets and aprons. I can encapsulate your placenta in my (pet-free, smoke-free) home, or I can come to your home and do the encapsulation in your own space. If you have pet dogs or cats which spend any time inside, I would strongly urge you to consider allowing me to process your placenta in my home.
As clients will be ingesting only their own placenta capsules, there is no known threat or harm to their body.
I only process one placenta at any given time, so there is no risk of ‘mixing up’ placentas or capsules from multiple clients, or of cross-contamination.
What does the package include and what is the cost?
When booked at least one week (7 days) in advance of the due date or scheduled birth date, my standard “I Want It All” package for AED 2,150 includes the following (for single placentas – see below for two placentas in some cases of twins):
- Email correspondence prior to due date to discuss:
- Hospital or other location of choice for birth
- Approximate due date
- Procedures for both the mother at the hospital or location of birth
- Expectations and concerns of birth mother and partner
- Two days of processing the placenta at birth mother’s residence in The Sustainable City, or pick-up of the placenta from residence for processing in my home
- Imprint of placenta and umbilical cord on heavy-duty, acid-free watercolor paper
- Umbilical cord formed into a rough ‘heart’ shape and dehydrated, if desired
- Freezing of a small portion of placental tissues for smoothies, if desired
- Full processing of placenta, resulting in end product of ‘raw’ or TCM method placenta capsules stored in a glass jar (number of capsules varies, based on size and weight of actual placenta)
- Choice of vegan (gelatin-free) or standard gelatin capsules (both options are sterile and non-toxic)
- Instruction sheet describing suggested use and dosage
- Placenta salve (emollient) to be used for eczema, wound healing, and rashes
- Placenta tincture (elixir) to be used orally after capsules are finished
- Delivery of capsules and other items to birth mother’s residence (if processed in my home), with explanation of dosage, etc.
What about placentas for fraternal twins or identical twins with two placentas?
My standard package for twin births with two placentas (fraternal/dizygotic twins and identical/monozygotic twins which happen to have separate placentas) is AED 165, and includes all of the above, with the addition of an additional placenta print and dried umbilical cord (one for each placenta) and in most cases, a larger quantity of capsules when compared to a single placenta. For encapsulation, both placentas will be combined and processed together to yield capsules.
What if I just want the capsules?
Placenta capsules only, without any of the additional products or services listed above, are offered for AED 1,350, for either gelatin (standard) capsules or vegetable-based (vegan/halal) capsules.
What if I just want a printing of my placenta but not the capsules?
I am happy to make a printing of your placenta and umbilical cord on heavy-duty watercolor paper, and can either discard your placenta or return it to you (some clients like to bury it or dispose of it themselves). The cost for this service is AED 250.
Are last minute or after-the-birth services available?
When booked less than one week (7 days) in advance of the due date or scheduled birth date, a surcharge of AED 90 will apply in addition to my service prices. Please make every effort to arrange your encapsulation and/or placenta printing as far in advance as possible.
If you are contacting me for the first time after your birth has already taken place, please be advised that I cannot guarantee that I will be able to provide encapsulation for you, as I operate on a strict schedule due to (1) demand, (2) my policy of only working on one placenta at any given time, (3) my current work with my raw food classes and events, and (4) a heavy travel schedule, in which case I may be abroad at certain times of the year. I urge clients to please book in advance of their births so that I can best be of service.
Where did you learn how to encapsulate placentas?
Following the birth of my son in October of 2012, my husband Kevin and I encapsulated my placenta without much direction or advice. I soon decided to study proper encapsulation techniques and enrolled in PBI’s online course, successfully completing all of my course modules and final assessment exam, leading to the designation of Placenta Encapsulation Specialist (PES). I have been encapsulating placentas in Bangkok since the end of 2012 for interested new mothers, including those who have traveled from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to give birth in Bangkok private hospitals. Thus far, I have processed placentas for over forty new mothers.
I do not employ the use of assistants or interns, and so I will be personally handling and processing every client’s placenta, in order to ensure proper encapsulation and safety measures.
How do I book these services?
In order to have us on-call and to secure placenta encapsulation for your birth, please make a deposit of AED 300 in one of the following ways:
- Paypal payment sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cash delivery (delivery address can be provided upon request)
- Bank transfer (account information can be provided upon request)
OR, use the payment buttons for the package of your choice at the top of this page or here below for full fees in one payment.
I Want It All
umbilical cord keepsake,
salve and tincture
If you are paying the deposit of AED 300 as opposed to the full amount, any remaining balance can be paid in person when we deliver your placenta capsules.
Blank, M.S., Friesen, H.G., 1980. Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation. Journal of Reproductive Fertility. 60, 273-278.
Soyková-Pachnerová, E., Brutar, V., Golová, B., Zvolská, E., 1954. Placenta as a lactagogon. Gynaecologica, 138: 617-627.