How to encapsulate your own placenta.
This post was originally written 2 years ago for a blog that I had at the time. That blog is no longer in existance, so I’m reposting it here 🙂
Hopefully in 3-4 months after the birth of my 3rd baby I’ll be able to update this post with pictures of the process!
Please keep in mind that I am in no way a medical professional. I am simply a mom who is passionate about doing my own research, and want to share what I learn. Nothing on this blog is to be taken as medical advice. Umkay?
Placenta encapsulation services are expensive! With my second pregnancy I knew I wanted to use my placenta, but I’m also a cheapskate. So I searched the Web and read everything I could find about doing it yourself.
And you know what?
It isn’t difficult.
Although, to be perfectly honest, I’m not the one who did it. I had talked my husband’s ear off about how I was going to do it for weeks. When baby and I were napping a couple hours after birth, Hubby knew what needed doing so he just did it. Yes, he’s awesome ?
Why Eat Your Placenta?
Placentophagy, or consuming your placenta, is a natural part of birth for almost all land mammals. Even herbivores who wouldn’t otherwise eat meat, will eat their placenta. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, though probable reasons include replenishing lost nutrition, hormone regulation and removing the evidence of birth that might attract predators.
We don’t have too many predators waiting to snatch our babies. But right after giving birth our hormones and nutrition are a mess!
There haven’t been many studies on human placentophagy, so most of the knowledge is anecdotal. But according to midwives, doulas and mommas (including me!) here are the possible benefits of consuming your placenta:
Benefits of Placentophagy
There is a long list of possible benefits from eating your placenta, but let’s just talk about the ones I experienced personally. I did not use the placenta with my first baby and noticed several differences the second time around.
- PPD / Baby Blues
- With my first I suffered from severe postpartum depression well beyond the normal baby blues, so it’s not a completely fair comparison. But still my placenta pills really helped keep me sane! If I forgot my placenta pills for a couple of days I would get weepy, stressed out and volatile. It made a huge difference.
- Milk supply
- I’ve never had supply problems, so I couldn’t speak on this one personally until a few weeks ago. We were having a really stressful day and I was losing it. I hadn’t used them in months, but I took one of the few placenta capsules left. Within 40 minutes my stress level was down and I was a patient mama again… Then 3 hours later milk was leaking from both breasts! The baby is 8 months old and here I am leaking like I have a newborn. So, from personal experience, there definitely is something to the milk production claim.
- Placenta encapsulation is supposed to help with iron levels. After the first baby I was severely anemic even though I was taking iron on top of my prenatal vitamin. After the second baby I asked my GP to run labs, and not only was my iron fine, but she told me to stop taking the extra! Placenta encapsulation, though, was only one of 3 factors that could have helped; we had also switched to cast iron skillets and upgraded to a high quality prenatal.
- Hair loss
- It could be coincidence, but I never experienced the postpartum hair shedding with the placenta pills, and it was pretty bad without them!
Ways to Eat Your Placenta
So how exactly do you eat your placenta? When looking into it I discovered women making fruit smoothies with it, cooking it up like liver, just popping a raw chunk in their mouth after birth, making tinctures and dehydrating it for encapsulation.
If I’m blessed with more babies I’ll probably use a small piece in a smoothie right after birth, because I tend to be a heavy bleeder and it’s supposed to help with that. But this last time we just made a tincture and pills.
A placenta tincture is incredibly simple to make! Just rinse the placenta, cut of a quarter or half dollar sized chunk and put it in a jar of vodka. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight and give it a little shake every day for 6 weeks. Then throw away the placenta chunk and you’re done! A dark colored jar will keep it from looking so gross 😉
You can keep the tincture indefinitely and use it to help future bouts of depression or anxiety, menstrual cramps and pms. Some women even keep it to help manage menopause symptoms.
There are two popular methods of encapsulating your placenta, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Raw Method. They both have pros and cons, so to decide you need to know what you hope to gain from your placenta.
The TCM method gently steams the placenta with herbs and spices, usually ginger, lemongrass and peppers before dehydrating it. The reasoning in TCM is that you should balance the yin of the postpartum body with the yang of warming herbs and stem.
If this is the method you choose, first rinse the placenta with water and remove the cord and membranes. Then season with fresh ground ginger, lemongrass and a finely chopped hot pepper. Pierce several times and steam over boiling water about 20 minutes on each side. Let cool and cut into strips as thin as possible. Then skip down to dehydrating instructions.
The Raw Method is what I personally chose. I was looking to preserve as much of the hormones as possible, and cooking destroys most of them.
The Raw method is just what it sounds like. Clean the placenta of any blood clots, remove the cord and membranes and slice as thinly as possible.
Here is where everyone’s methods differ. Before dehydrating lots of people like to soak their raw placenta in some concoction or other. Lemon juice and salt to help with preservation, maybe with the warming herbs (lemongrass, ginger and pepper) from TCM for the yang. Whatever. Leaving it plain is just fine too.
With mine I had a lemon juice/salt/ginger mixture in the fridge waiting, but mostly just because I was nesting and squeezing lemons into my special, pretty placenta bowl seemed like the most important thing ever, and absolutely had to be finished or the world was going to end!
Dehydration and Encapsulation
Now that you’ve got your prepared and sliced placenta, just spread it out in a dehydrator. I have a fancy shmancy convection oven with a bread proofing setting, which was about the same thing, so we used that. If I had a regular oven I’d invest in a dehydrator.
Depending on how thin you sliced the placenta it could take 6-12 hours for it to dehydrate. Once it’s done, you need to grind up the placenta jerky.
We used our spice/coffee grinder, but you could also use a blender. Some women hand grind it to avoid “angry metal energy” but I don’t eat shrooms.
You can buy capsules at health food stores, or shop Amazon.
Although it would be possible to fill all the capsules by hand, this capsules machine is totally worth it!
Many placenta encapsulation services will add special herb blends to your pills. While this sounds awesome, I’ve heard too many stories of mamas who discovered they were sensitive to an herb, and their placenta pills were completely useless.
Herbs are wonderful for postpartum healing and support, but should always be separate from the placenta.
- -The Placenta needs to be refrigerated immediately after birth and processed as soon as possible. Remember, it’s raw meat.
- If your uterus was infected the placenta should not be used.
- Always wear gloves when handling someone else’s placenta.
- Sanitize the prep area and tools both before and after.
- Be careful not to breathe the dust when grinding the placenta. Your immune system might not like it.
- Some mommas may have negative reactions to the hormones, so use your best judgment. If you think it might be causing mood problems take a break and see if you feel better.
- Store placenta capsules in the fridge for up to 6 months, then move to the freezer.
Have you ever consumed your placenta? In what form? Did you prep it yourself or hire it done?
In Corde Maria,
featured image via flickr user moppet65535