– Text by Leah – Photos by Mark
So I decided to encapsulate my placenta. Or, rather, I decided to hire someone to come over to my house and encapsulate it for me (thanks, Melanie!). Honestly, if I think about it too much it still grosses me out. *But* I’m happy to report that the actual taking of the placenta pills is not as gross as I feared. So why exactly am I swallowing my placenta? There are a list of supposed benefits from consuming one’s placenta after birth – from helping reduce postpartum bleeding, to increasing milk supply and a host of other things. There aren’t any big studies to back up these claims, but there are tons of anecdotal accounts from other women, so I figured I’d give it a shot… at the very least, it wouldn’t hurt me. And it could possibly really help with my postpartum recovery. The main reason I wanted to take placenta pills was to help with the huge hormonal decrease that follows birth. Like I said, there aren’t many studies yet on placentophagy, but the few small studies available are promising and show benefits such as decrease in maternal fatigue and postpartum depression. The placenta is super rich in nutrients, and contains a stress-fighting chemical know as corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH:
During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes a lot of CRH. The rise is so dramatic that CRH levels in the maternal bloodstream increase threefold. “We can only speculate,” says George Chrousos, the endocrinologist who led the NIH study, “but we think it helps women go through the stress of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.” But what happens after birth, when the placenta is gone? Chrousos and his colleagues monitored CRH levels in 17 women from the last trimester to a year after they gave birth. All the women had low levels of CRH – as low as seen in some forms of depression – in the six weeks following birth. The seven women with the lowest levels felt depressed. Chrousos suspects that CRH levels are temporarily low in new mothers because CRH from the placenta disrupts the feedback system that regulates normal production of the hormone. During pregnancy, when CRH levels are high in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus releases less CRH. After birth, however, when this supplementary source of CRH is gone, it takes a while for the hypothalamus to get the signal that it needs to start making more CRH.
The theory is that by ingesting the placenta after birth, it helps the mother get over the “hump” until her brain starts producing CRH again, thereby warding off the baby blues or post-partum depression. And that’s primarily why I’ve chosen to eat my placenta. (yuck, it still grosses me out to say that!).
I’m only 2 weeks and 6 days postpartum now, but I can tell you that my milk supply is off the charts. BabyRoX is getting plenty of it and gaining weight like it’s his job. There have been two days I didn’t take my pills in the morning like usual, and on those days I felt way more tired and emotionally raw – you know, the kind of crazy everything-is-gonna-make-me-cry feeling…and then I took the pills, and I felt substantially more energetic and emotionally stable. Was this due to the powers of the placenta? Maybe, maybe not. But even if it’s just a placebo effect, I’m all for it. I like feeling great and I’m glad I decided to encapsulate my placenta. And the little purple pills in my fridge aren’t that gross. I just try not to think about it too much. Mark, on the other hand, photographed the whole process… for your viewing pleasure, of course!
(It gets pretty graphic and bloody – which is why we pushed the photos further down than usual on the page.)
– Text by Mark
We hired Melanie Nasmyth to do the placenta encapsulation. You can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in finding out more about her services – she’s also a DONA certified labor doula.
To ‘keep’ the placenta – we placed it in a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge right after the birth. Two days later we had Melanie come over to turn the placenta into pills.
Of course – the first step whenever you’re cooking human parts – is to prepare the meat.
There’s an outer lining/sac that you have to remove.
Once the placenta was cleaned – Melanie put it in the steamer and then into a pot of water to cook the thing.
Oh yeah – if you put a lemon slice into the pot – it helps to keep it from really smelling bad as the placenta cooks.
It cooks faster if you poke a few holes into the placenta meat.
Hey look. Cord.
And then after 20 minutes or so – you have cooked placenta!
Now you cut it up into slices.
Get your Food Dehydrator ready – because we’re making placenta jerky.
… six hours later…. you take all of that placenta jerky and eat it.
No – just kidding don’t do that! You put it into a coffee grinder (one that you will NEVER USE AGAIN) – and grind that placenta meat into a fine powder.
And then you grab your ‘pill-making’ set and get to work.
And now you have 64 pills (or more).
It’s a relatively easy process once you know what you’re doing and once you have all of the tools/appliances you need. Melanie brought a lot of her own supplies with her – stuff like a disposable cutting board, the knives, the food dehydrator, the coffee grinder, etc… think of all of the ‘dishes’ that you end up using when you cook a meal – now think about how you might NOT want to use any of that stuff EVER AGAIN.
It was totally worth it for us to hire Melanie and have her do everything, with her own supplies. Now – if you’re a partner/spouse that thinks this might be a crazy/gross thing for your wife to do – the way I see it is – F*ck the weirdness of the whole thing. If it’s going to keep my wife from getting post-partum depression or just help her from feeling sad/not feeling well, then I’m all for it. Why wouldn’t I be for something like that?
And now – it’s time for a bath and then a nap.