The placenta is the organ that has been supplying nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the baby. It is an amazing organ. Many believe that consuming the placenta after the birth, can be very beneficial for the mother.
The practice of eating the placenta to rejuvenate the mother’s health and well-being dates back centuries, particularly in Chinese medicine, and there is a resurgence in the popularity of this practice today. It follows the lead set by most mammalian mothers in the animal kingdom.
One method of doing this is called Placenta Encapsulation. There are professionals who will encapsulate your placenta for you. Ask your care provider for a list of who can do this in your area.
The potential benefits include:
- Contains oxytocin which facilitates mother and baby bonding and helps the uterus return to normal size..
- Reduces likelihood of post-partum depression
- Increases iron levels in the blood
- Increases breast milk supply
- Boost energy
- Increases CRH, a stress-reducing hormone
- Nourishs endocrine glands and other organs
- Reduces postpartum bleeding
Beneficial Hormones and Nutrients found in the placenta:
- Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone: Contributes to mammary gland development in preparation for lactation; stabilizes postpartum mood; regulates post-birth uterine cramping; decreases depression; normalizes and stimulates libido.
- Prolactin: Promotes lactation; increases milk supply; enhances the mothering instinct.
- Oxytocin: Known as the “love hormone.” Decreases pain and increases bonding in mother and infant; counteracts the production of stress hormones such as Cortisol; can reduce postpartum bleeding; enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex.
- Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF): Stimulates the production of your body’s natural opioids, including endorphins; reduces pain; said to enhance well-being.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: Regulates the thyroid gland; boosts energy and supports recovery from stressful events.
- Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH): Low levels of CRH are implicated in postpartum depression. Regulation of CRH helps prevent depression.
- Cortisone: Reduces inflammation and swelling; promotes healing. Releases cortisol to combat stress and increase energy.
- Interferon: Stimulates the protective defenses of the immune system to fight infection.
- Prostaglandins: Regulates contractions in the uterus after birth; helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Anti-inflammatory effects.
- Iron: Replenishes maternal iron stores to combat anemia, a common postpartum condition. Increases energy; decreases fatigue and depression.
- Hemoglobin: Oxygen-carrying molecule which provides a boost in energy. Important for absorbing iron.
- Urokinase Inhibiting Factor and Factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing.
- Immunoglobulin G (IgG): Antibody molecules which support the immune system.
- Human Placental Lactogen (hPL): This hormone has lactogenic and growth-promoting properties; promotes mammary gland growth in preparation for lactation in the mother. It also regulates maternal glucose, protein, and fat levels.
At this time there is little current scientific studies or research to affirm or deny the benefits of the mother eating her placenta. Most studies are either quite old or involve documenting the effects on other animal species.
Instead, anecdotal evidence from other mothers, coupled with benefits described by practitioners of Chinese or alternative medicine, has been sufficient for the practice to grow in popularity and practice.
Laws and Legal Restrictions
At this time there are no laws regulating or restricting placenta encapsulation or the people who perform this service. However some states do have laws stating that the placenta cannot be removed from the hospital.
If your birth plan includes a hospital delivery along consuming your placenta, best to check on your local laws and what your hospital will permit…or choose a home birth.
How to do it yourself:
- Steam the placenta…or not. Many mothers prefer to keep the placenta raw to preserve the enzymes.
- Dry or dehydrate placenta (first slice it into small, thin pieces).
if the dehydrator temperature is kept under 110 degrees F, the end product is still considered to be raw.
- Grind (or blend) the dried pieces into a powder.
- Place the powder inside gelatin capsules, just like you would use for herbal supplements or any other powdered medicine, hence the term “placenta encapsulation.”
This method allows the mother to consume a few capsules each day, thus extending the timeline of possible benefits.
In this picture you see the raw sliced placenta on a drying rack of a dehydrator.