In the last two posts, I’ve discussed what the process of encapsulation is, and what some of the reported benefits are. As a doula, I always encourage my clients to research the many choices they have as they move through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. So, why does placenta encapsulation put me with one foot in the world of research (that of charts), and one foot in the intuition of generations of mothers (that of the heart)?
As a placenta specialist, I am convinced that my service is completed in a safe and sanitary way, and I can in good conscience offer it to interested women. I advise them to be aware the of the risks and benefits, and that I can’t guarantee either. However, the moms who have chosen this route have responded positively, by and large, and that is something that, while the evidence cannot yet prove, it cannot yet disprove! Their intuition, and the tradition of perhaps centuries of women, led them not to discard their placenta as medical waste, but rather as a postpartum benefit to them, and through them, to their newborn child. (Did you know that all mammals regularly consume their placentas, except humans and camels?)
Opinion is a bit divided on exactly when placenta remedies began to be used, but it appears the earliest *written* record is in the 16th century (Young and Benyshek, 49). Medieval German texts call the placenta “mother’s bread” and various recipes relate on how to prepare it (Enning, 2).
Though called for by mothers, researchers, and birth professionals, current research in Western medicine on placentophagy is just not sizable – at all. There have been anecdotal studies (which I will link to below), there have been non-human mammalian studies, but no controlled studies until recently, the results of which are soon to be published (keep on eye on the University of Nevada – Las Vegas website, where results of the first controlled study are currently in the peer review process, as I understand.)
Where does that leave you in the choices you are free to make? Relating to me personally: I did not consume my placenta after my first four children were born. I had an abundant milk supply, and was blessed not to struggle with postpartum depression. After my fifth was born, I prepared my placenta in capsule form, and noted a marked difference. Less bleeding, more stable mood, and milk supply remained abundant (in fact, so abundant that, at three weeks, I achieved the benefit I thought the pills could give me, and I discontinued their use). That is just one anecdotal account — the one that drove me to offer this service.
I have worked with clients who struggled with both of these issues, among others, and were relieved, either in part, or entirely, from them. Some clients, while experiencing a benefit, still needed the support of additional medications, either for mood, or milk production.
Until more research is done and concluded, you may feel like me — we take what we can from the research, and the other part comes from intuition and tradition, and trust that the process is safe and sanitary and performed with due care. Heart and Chart — they play a dual role in our decision making process.
From above: *In the journal Ecology of Food and Medicine, researchers from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, surveyed close to 200 women who had chosen to consume their own placentas, in various forms. The response from the women’s self-reporting was overwhelmingly positive, with 76 % saying they experienced benefits, and few, if any side effects. The study’s authors summarized,
“Our survey participants generally reported some type of perceived benefit from the practice, felt that their postpartum experience with placentophagy was a positive one, and overwhelmingly indicated that they would engage in placentophagy again after subsequent pregnancies (UNLV research by Selander and Young).”
Enning, Cornelia (2007) Placenta: Gift of Life, MotherBaby Press, Eugene Oregon. 2007.
Young, Sharon; Benyshek, Daniel (2010). “In Search of Human Placentophagy: A Cross-Cultural Survey of Human Placenta Consumption, Disposal Practices, and Cultural Beliefs”. Ecology of Food and Nutrition (Taylor & Francis Online) 49
“Steamed, Dehydrated, or Raw”, article summarizing UNLV study, accessed at the following address: https://news.unlv.edu/article/steamed-dehydrated-or-raw-placentas-may-help-moms%E2%80%99-post-partum-health, June 23, 2015
Café Stir, http://thestir.cafemom.com/celebrity_moms/181421/celebrity_moms_ate_placenta, accessed June 16, 2015
Would you Eat Your Placenta? These Four women did. Originally appeared in http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/health/health/4828468/Would-you-eat-your-placenta-All-of-these-women-did.html; accessed on July 23, 2015, via PlacentaWise.com
Placenta Pills Gain Fans, Tara Haelle, June 4, 2015. Accessed at: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/04/411990944/placenta-pills-gain-fans-among-new-moms-but-benefits-are-elusive, on June 23rd, 2015