As we all know, pharmaceutical drugs are studied and tested, to determine how they work, if they work, and any side effects of dangers to their use. Up until recently, though anecdotal and experiential evidence abounds, no actual placebo-controlled clinical studies of ingesting placenta had been conducted. Placenta pills are not regulated by any private or governmental organization. Studies have been slow to come to fruition, as private research grants were needed to fund these studies. And, there needed to be individuals just plain interested enough to do them!
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, research team of Benyshek et al are just such individuals.
Though some of the papers/research is still in the process of being reviewed and released as of this writing (Sept 2017) a few pieces have come out that I wanted to highlight.
First, this study looks at the placenta in regards to iron. If I have the opportunity to educate my clients as to the effects of iron postpartum, I encourage them to make a menu plan including iron in a bio-available form (and, while prenatal vitamins are important, whole food sources of ANY vitamin are going to be more available to our bodies, thus doing it the most good!). That being said, I don’t know many of my clients are actually taking a bovine-based iron supplement, as half the women in the study were doing. So, I could look at this study in more of a positive light than the title would suggest. The placenta does contain iron, and it can at least match that of a bovine supplement. Good news!
Evidence Based Birth did a feature and video about placenta encapsulation, and also referenced this 2016 study, and noted that placenta contains about 1/4 of the iron needed for your daily recommended allowance. So, in other words, for some women, PE (Placenta Encapsulation) can reasonably be a part of their whole plan for postpartum wellness and food/supplements.
This same study noted that “the placenta contained trace/modest amounts of other minerals” (from EBB). The study also showed that none of the placentas studied contained any toxic materials – also good news, as that is a common concern people suggest! Rather than trapping ‘bad stuff’, the placenta acts more like a filter (that is a better analogy), doing its part to keep bad stuff away from the growing pre-born baby.
The same study analyzed the hormone types contained in the capsules themselves. They found
- estradiol (a form of estrogen)
The amounts were small, but in the case of progesterone and estradiol, the amounts were high enough that researchers theorized that they could make a difference in the body of the person ingesting the capsules (EBB).
As I await, with you, the additional parts of the study coming out, I am eager to see if the research shows the effect of placenta encapsulation on Post-Partum Depression. At this point, we can look at these couple of newer studies and know, baseline, that placentophagy isn’t exposing you to toxins, and is at least as good as a beef (bovine) iron supplement!
The clients who have responded to my own personal post-partum survey after taking their capsules have chimed in with the following anecdotal, experiential tidbits, noting that their placenta capsules:
- increased energy
- helped with milk production and supply
- helped lessen postpartum bleeding
- helped promote feeling more calm
- less anxious
- more happy
- more stable
In the meantime, I also ALWAYS advise my clients that they may experience NO effect, or they might experience a SIDE effect (negative or positive) or they might experience ALLLLL the positive effects they are looking for! Placenta Encapsulation is only PART of your overall postpartum plan, which should include adequate rest (and please line up help, so you can rest), nutritious food, more rest, lots of hydration, and then again, more rest! ….Did I mention rest?! Adequate sleep is an INCREDIBLY important part of you postpartum plan. And that means, you need a village of people caring for you, your significant other, and your other kids, so you can do so.
I also stress that, at this point, and likely for a long time into the future, encapsulators don’t have a specific education path they must take, nor are they required to be certified by a governmental or regulatory agency. There continue to be a variety of respected ways for a specialist to acquire the training and knowledge to assist women in this service – among them, self-learning, mentorship, and certification programs. I value that there are different paths we can choose, and rejoice in the freedom of that choice, with my other colleagues in this unique business!
I am completing my ServSafe Food Handlers certificate this month, and I will continue to renew my Blood Born Pathogen training on a scheduled basis. Both of these programs give me the knowledge for proper sanitation techniques, and proper temperatures which would eliminate any pathogens present. With them, I feel absolutely confident that what I am doing provides my service in a safe, efficient, and respectful way. I work diligently, respectfully, and very conscientiously for your health and safety – that is of utmost important to me, and will continue to be. I am so honored to have served a growing number of women each year!
I will also continue to keep myself at the forefront of any additional research, and share that with you, as it becomes available. There’s always something new to learn! If I would have thought that someday I would be offering this service to FM area women and their families, I wouldn’t have believed it. But as we remain open to learning the many ways we can support women in the postpartum time, we can all continue to learn and grow to provide a peaceful postpartum for all!