I had never heard of placenta consumption until I was added into a lovely group of crunchy mamas in the Baltimore area via Facebook. Thought I have met very few of them, I have learned so much from these women!
One of the topics that is routinely discussed is the benefits of the placenta consumption- whether via encapsulation, cooking in some way, used as a tincture, broth, or raw in smoothies.
The concept is this: humans are virtually the only mammals that don’t routinely eat their placentas after birth. During pregnancy, the placenta is responsible for manufacturing all of the hormones in the body that sustain the pregnancy and prepare the mother’s body to, well, be a mother. After birth, once the placenta is delivered, it’s the body’s job to take over making those hormones again. The problem is that it often takes the body a few weeks to realize that it needs to make these hormones, which can cause significant hormonal problems for the mother- sometimes a mild ‘baby blues’, or as serious as postpartum depression and anxiety.
So what’s the natural solution? We consume the placenta! Yes, it sounds completely crazy, but humans are actually one of only a slim few species of mammals that DON’T routinely consume the placenta- the others being marine mammals whose placentas often drift away in the tides after birth. In fact, in some parts of the world, placenta consumption is completely routine, such as in many parts of Asia. But what are the real benefits?
After birth, the placenta still contains high levels of those great hormones it’s been producing for months. When we consume small portions of the placenta, we are supplementing our body’s plummeting hormone levels during those weeks that it takes to ‘remember’ to produce them again. This aids in milk production, supports good energy levels, balances the emotions, and is a great force in warding off postpartum depression.
So how exactly do you consume the placenta? Well, there are several options, each with it’s own benefits. Depending on who will be preparing the placenta for you (or, if you’re doing it yourself), you may have a few of these options, or just one or two.
Encapsulation via Traditional Chinese Method– In this method, the placenta is steamed along with traditional ‘warming’ herbs, such as ginger and cayenne, which also have a preservative effect. It is then dehydrated and ground into a powder, then put into capsules to take as directed.
Encapsulation via Raw Preparation/ Dehydration– In this method, the placenta is simply cleaned and dehydrated, ground, and placed into capsules. Because it is dehydrated, the pills will last indefinitely. Encapsulation methods are definitely the most common.
Raw/Frozen Consumption– This method involves cleaning/rinsing the placenta, cutting it into small chunks, and freezing them. The typical use for them is then to put them in a smoothie to mask the taste.
Cooked Consumption– Probably the least common, this involves some type of creative recipe like ‘plasagna’ or cooking the placenta like you would a pot roast, or perhaps liver and onions, and consuming it over the week following the birth. If you can stomach it, more power to you.
Tincture– Usually prepared in conjunction with encapsulation, a piece of dehydrated placenta is placed in a container of alcohol and allowed to steep, which releases the medicinal benefits of the placenta. In the long term, taking small amounts of this tincture in water can continue to boost the hormones when mom feels she needs a ‘pick me up’.
Broth– Typically prepared after the Traditional Chinese Method, this involves taking the steaming water from the placenta and freezing it into ice cubes. Over the few weeks following the birth, the nutrient-rich cubes can be placed in drinks (such as iced teas) and consumed for additional benefits.
In my experience in the past few weeks, this is one of the most worthwhile investments a mom can make for her postpartum health. We chose to incapsulate via the Traditional Chinese Method, as well as making a broth (which sadly I never used) and a tincture. My milk came in within 3 hours of taking my first dose of pills. My energy level has been through the roof (I can’t wait to start exercising again!), my mood has been great, and every day I get comments about how great I seem to be doing with my recovery.
I actually didn’t take the pills for two days because I came down with a cold, and you are supposed to discontinue the pills until you are well (they can strengthen the sickness). Those two days were the worst of my postpartum recovery so far- I was exhausted and irritable. Even my husband commented that I seemed different after I explained that I hadn’t taken the pills in two days- the difference was really noticeable!
If you’re considering placenta encapsulation, I would encourage you to check out placentabenefits.info and find a certified placenta encapsulationist in your area. If you’re local, check out my friend Lauren at www.agrowingbelly.com!