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A Personal Account of Placenta Consumption

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Placenta floating in the birth pool minutes after birth. 

The most frequently asked question since the birth of my second son, Exley, has been about the encapsulation of my placenta. I was one of those people who was thoroughly disgusted by the prospect of consuming a placenta. However, I made plans to do this because I am pretty open to trying new and different things and also because the amount of positive reports regarding the benefits was undeniable for me. Those benefits are said to include lessening postpartum blues, stabilizing hormones, replenishing iron supply, promoting lactation, speeding up recovery time and fighting fatigue. This all sounded worth it to me.

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 My midwife shows me my placenta. 

The doula I hired for my birth is trained in placenta encapsulation so setting it up was easy for me. She asked if I wanted to have the process done in my own home or away at her home. I voted to have it done at my own home because then I could watch the process and show all of you. Once we had a placenta she placed it in a Ziploc bag and put it in my fridge. 2 days later she returned to begin the process. She cleaned and sterilized an entire portion of my kitchen (bonus!). Then she washed it, boiled it and cut it up into tiny pieces. She spread the tiny pieces onto a dehydrator. We placed the dehydrator in a locked room so that the cats could not find it. Apparently they love the taste of placenta. The room with the dehydrator smelled a bit like flesh during this step. She left it here to dehydrate overnight.

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Long umbilical cord. 

The next day she returned to grind up the dried placenta (in her Magic Bullet) and encapsulate the grounds. She left the pills with me along with instructions for dosage and complementary foods and drinks for maximum effectiveness. To be honest I was a bit nervous to begin. Based on some of the reports I have heard from others who have taken these pills I was concerned about feeling “speedy.” My doula assured me small adjustments in the dosage would fix any issues.

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My doula washing the placenta. 

The biggest issue for me was the “gross factor.” I never acted like I was super happy about all this. I knew it would be hard for me to get the pills down. I found that I was grossed out all the way until I put one in my mouth and still to this day every time I swallow one. Sometimes I have to put my hand over my mouth while I swallow to force it down. On occasion I catch a taste of it if I don’t throw it far back enough or if I breathe before I get a big swig of orange juice. I have gagged.

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The placenta boiling on my stove. 

My birth and postpartum experience with my first son, Jack, was a struggle from start to finish. My doctor was pretty unsupportive of my wishes all through pregnancy. She actually told me that it was physically impossible to give birth without an epidural. I was induced, given an epidural, Stadol, an episiotomy and tons of stitches. I bled for 2 ½ months. It took me about as long to walk around comfortably. I struggled emotionally as well. I felt scared and anxious. I was stunned by the prospect of being a mother and this new responsibility. I didn’t want people around. I pushed people away. I struggled to accept help from others. The transition was hard. It was an overall dark period of time.

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The placenta cut into pieces. Next it is placed in the dehydrator. 

The second time I surrounded myself with supportive people. I hired midwives that used my wishes a guide. The birth took place in my own home (which was important for us). I had no interventions outside of oxygen and a couple of stitches. I felt great from the moment Exley was placed on my chest. I was advised to rest, but I really wanted to dance or run around the block. I had to pee about an hour after giving birth. My body was working again already. I wanted to eat and drink. I wanted visitors. I wanted help. I asked for help. I was walking around after a couple of days, sitting on the ground a week later and riding on a see-saw with my sons at 3 weeks postpartum.

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Jar of encapsulated placenta. 

There are a million factors that could have contributed to the 2 different experiences. My gut tells me that there are far more factors than placenta pills that contributed to my positive postpartum experience. Before this second birth I got the impression that the pills were going to stand on their own as the ultimate in postpartum recovery. For me, the healing and empowering pregnancy and birth experience with less interventions has also contributed to my quicker recovery and more positive mood. The less that is done to us the less we have to recover from. And it makes a world of difference having people around that believe in the powerful birthing and healing powers of my body. It also helps that it is the second time around.

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My doula made a heart and braided charm out of the umbilical cord for keepsakes. 

I have had my weepy moments, my struggles to tandem nurse, my struggles to adjust to a family of four and all sorts of other pressures. But I have taken them in stride and been able to manage them; feelings are normal after all, and only an issue if they begin to affect your ability to function. If the placenta pills have had an effect on that then I believe it is because they are a great supplement to an overall healing and empowering birth experience. I felt wonderful immediately after birth, 2 days before beginning the placenta pills. But they could be a key factor in maintaining this winning streak. If I were to get pregnant again I would do everything I did this second time; including placenta encapsulation. I believe it is a valuable part of a positive postpartum experience, but I don’t believe there is a magic pill. I don’t think that placenta consumption can take the place of creating an overall supportive and empowering experience, whatever that means to you, from start to finish for you and your family.

This is just my personal experience thus far. There are as many stories of recovery as there are mothers. What’s yours?

Abby Theuring, MSW

***A special thank you to Tiny Bubbles family Photography By Leslie for the professional photos you see here. Please “Like” her Facebook page.

Comments

  1. Patricia says:

    I have never done the placenta encapsulation but choose midwives for my first two births. I had wonderful experiences and quick recoveries but I didn’t know any better. After talking to friends though, it seems midwives do provide a much better experience even in a hospital. This time around I am having identical twins which midwives wouldn’t do and although I like the OB I have I don’t feel very in control because of the uncertainty of when they will come, how they will come (c-section is a large possibility). I have choosen to be positive about the experience though and know if a c-section does happen it is for the safety of the boys and that this is very different from a singleton.

    • Patricia, I would really look for another midwife. I’m in Indiana and my midwife has delivered dozens of twins, at home. So I know they are out there. Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy! And congratulations on the double trouble this time around!

  2. Milk production? Have you noticed a difference from your milk production versus your milk production with Jack?

  3. Gina Rodriguez says:

    I was induced, pumped full of pitocin, given an epidural, and tore badly almost to the point of tearing through the anus–thank goodness tht didn’t happen. The birth was very traumatic for me and not at all what I wanted. I was totally numb and my helpers had to pull my legs and “help” me push whih ended up pulling them out of socket and pulling a few nerves to the point that I had numbness in my outer thighs for about nine-ten months as it gradually faded with time and a lot of ohysical therapy & Rolfing sessions.
    I felt depressed at about 2 days postpartum and extremely anxious. Thankfully I did opt for Placenta Encapsulation! My pills were ready on the third day and the next morning, while still in pain and uninterested in going out into the world, I felt better. I continued to take the pills for the next few weeks and gradually weaned off of them but I noticed some anxiety coming back so I increased my dosage again for another 2 weeks then decreased to one pill per day unless I felt I needed more. It worked great for me! This wa my first baby so I have nothing to gauge the experience. I did have oversupply issues for a long while and only pumped when I was at work and first thing in the morning but I was still able to provide milk for my newborn adopted nephew 5 months later and breastfed my dd until she was 2.

  4. I encapsulated mine with baby #2. I took 1-2 a day for a month and then spaced them out. Now I take them on days that I’m emotionally all over the place. They are fantastic and my baby blues have been hardly noticeable compared with baby #1. I still have around 75 pills in my freezer and I wish I could keep them on hand forever!

  5. Candice Barber says:

    I had a horrible experience with my first; premature rupture followed by two weeks of bed rest, c-section where my arms were tied down so I could hold my son until I was wheeled to my room, 3 Seromas after the surgery requiring months of healing and doctors visits, topped off with post partium depression. It was a horrible experience! So when I found I was pregnant with my daughter and the doctors told me I should prepare for another c-section, I was crushed but mobilized into action. I created a detailed birth plan following the gentle c-section method and researched ways to combat post partium depression. Placenta encapsulation was the best method for me since it was safe for breastfeeding and would help me relieve the fear of depression. My daughter decided she wanted to come early and the hospital gave me daytime Ambian so I slept through ALL the contractions until my water broke. My daughter was born by VBAC after 8 minutes of pushing. 🙂 My specialist came to my house for a one day encapultion. The process was similar to yours but I don’t have an issue taking the pills, I just hold my breath before i unseal my jar of pills. I take mine with water or coffee so that I don’t risk an acid burp afterwards.
    The rewards of taking the pills:
    Return to per pregnancy weight in days
    More breast milk then I can feed my daughter at each feeding.
    More energy (nessacary with a toddler)
    Faster healing
    Returning libido
    Happier parenting

    I recommend it to all my pregnant friends now. I was skeptical but I am a believer now.

  6. Patricia Stymiest says:

    I had my water broken at the hospital with my first delivery.( I was 2 weeks overdue and labour wasn’t progressing at a level acceptable to my doctor. Immediately I began to have VERY intense contraction the took me completely off guard. As a result I had taken the epidural. ( something I didn’t originally want- wanted no drugs)When everything was said and done I felt I had made the right choice. I thought wow I could just do this the next time. Shortly after I gave birth I had an attack of multiple scrlerosis! I wanted more children and was told to go ahead. I was afraid of the epidural might affect me as an MS patient. Everything I had researched said that there was no real evidence that I couldn’t ‘t have one , but my desire for a natural birth grew even stronger. This time I found a friend who agreed to be my birthing coach( my husband comes a bit undone while I’m in labour lol) she really helped and I laboured at home and encouraged me to stick with it and take no drugs( she didn’t ‘t want me to be deprived of my desire of a natural birth.) seeing as I was only going to have this last baby this was my last chance ! Lol. I will NEVER EVER regret my decision. I got to experience birth in all it ‘a glorious stages !!! My baby blues were less and I adjusted to post birth struggles way better this time . I never encapsulated but the natural birth made me feel happy and satisfied with less blues. I would recommend trying it natural to any mom to be! It left me with a lot to remember and cherish . Don’t get me wrong, my first moments with my first one is full of happy memories too- just healing emotionally was better.

  7. Patricia Stymiest says:

    Oh yeah. I did deliver at the hospital but I was already ready to deliver by the time I got there.

  8. Cutrina George says:

    This is my second one and I had a pretty easy birth I was induced baby was born 1 hour 11 minutes after induction. I decided early on I woud do placenta encapsulation and it was great my first time around I had the baby blues pretty bad this time there was none of that no milk issues I healed quickly the whole experience has been awesome. The doula that did the encapsulation used strawberry flavored capsules it takes the ick factor away. I was also given vegan chocolate tinctures with the placenta powder and I have no issues eating those either they taste fine.

  9. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing! I’m hoping to have my placenta encapsulated by an ipen specialist but if the European Fsa rules that the placenta is a novel food on the 11.7.14 thenit would be made illegal. I’ve bought a mini encapsulation kit but I’m so scared by the gross factor and if I’ll even have the energy to go through the process while dealing with a newborn and a 23 month old.

    Brigid
    http://Www.cr8v-design. blogspot. co.uk

  10. Amanda Orona says:

    This is a great testament! I gave birth 14 months ago, and the placenta is still in my freezer. I never got around to researching finding someone to encapsulate it. I’m wondering if I still can, and if it would be beneficial. I stopped breastfeeding 2 months ago, when my daughter turned 1.

  11. Chelsea says:

    Wondering if you could share what the complementary food/beverages are to go along
    the pills? I didn’t get that info when I had mine encapsulated and would love to know. Thank you!

  12. Margarita says:

    As a CLC and CLE (Certified lactation Educator and Counselor) be aware and careful of placenta pills. 99% of my clients that have encapsulated their placenta within a couple days or weeks suppress their milk supply. I am against it and advise my clients to steer away from it. Breastfeeding will decrease the risk of post partartum depression.

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