Eat your own placenta?  The founder of Placenta Benefits answers our questions.

January 26, 2012

Did you know that some mothers consume their own placentas?

We’ve been hearing about it, and while we know it’s not for everyone, thought it would be interesting to learn more.  So we asked  Jodi Selander, founder of Placenta Benefits to answer some questions.

Jodi trains and certifies specialists who encapsulate placentas for consumption, based on a method she developed.  She is active in research on the placentophagy (placenta consumption) research team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and has presented her findings at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association.  Jodi has also written and published several articles on the use of placenta for postpartum recovery.

Why do some mothers choose to consume their placentas?

We usually discuss the three main benefits of placenta capsules that most mothers report, which are an increased milk supply, a noticeable increase in energy levels, as well as a general sense of feeling “good” or “normal.” Placenta is used for stress relief, and most mothers do feel that it helps with their mood. They often call them their “happy pills”.

 

What are some different ways in which a placenta can be prepared?

 

The placenta can be prepared in many different ways. I subscribe to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine - placenta have been used for centuries in this manner, and I didn’t feel like I should mess with their system, since it is one of their most powerful medicines when prepared that way. This way also gives the capsules longevity; they can be frozen and kept for a long time, and definitely taken over the first several weeks postpartum, the time when many women struggle with the Baby Blues. However, some women just cut pieces out to put in smoothies or freeze; this does decrease the time in which it can be taken to the first 3 days after birth, to the first week or so. It can also be used as any other meat in a food dish - placenta spaghetti and the like. I’m just happy when a mother chooses to utilize the placenta, instead of throwing it in the trash! But the easiest way for me to take the placenta was in a capsule.

PBi-trained and Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialists are schooled in the Traditional Chinese Medicine method of preparation, which involves steaming the placenta prior to dehydration, eliminating any concerns over bacteria living on the placenta and being transferred to the capsules. Additionally, in TCM, cooked foods work differently in the body than raw foods, and placenta is meant to have warming properties (i.e., cooked).

What are some traditions and beliefs from different cultures regarding the placenta?

 

There are so many wonderful traditions of honoring the placenta! In some cultures, the placenta is considered the spiritual twin of the baby, and is treated as such. Most cultural traditions involve burial or some sort of honorary memorial for it. I have written several articles on this topic - you can read one here.

Nearly all other mammals eat their placentas after birth.  Is it believed that humans once did, too?

 

That is the belief, but we have been unable to find it in written records. One of my research colleagues at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) performed a comprehensive survey of the anthropological literature related to cultural beliefs, rituals, and the placenta, and was unable to find any cultural-wide practices of human maternal placentophagy (where the mother consumes the placenta). Another researcher at UNLV has come up with an interesting theory as to why humans may have stopped eating placenta, and his paper will be published next year. So there is a lot of recent interest in this topic. Now, placenta have been used for centuries for a variety of treatments, but these are often related to male issues, interestingly enough; vitality, fertility, and the like. It has also been used in other cultures as a remedy for the baby or father. But it seems that women were giving up the placenta for use by others, not for herself. So the practice of mothers consuming it for postpartum is a recent phenomenon - we started seeing references to it in the 1970’s.

If a mother wants to consume her placenta in capsule form, where can she find someone who can encapsulate it for her?

 

I have trained many wonderful women in the art of placenta encapsulation through the Placenta Benefits Placenta Encapsulation Training Course. These Placenta Encapsulation Specialists reside all across the United States and Canada, and we also have Specialists in the UK, South Korea, and Australia. You can find one in your area here.

If a mother doesn’t want to consume her placenta, what are some other ways of honoring it?

 

If she births in a hospital, the first step is to ask to take it home! The more that hospitals get this request, the more likely they are to adapt mother- and placenta-friendly policies. Many couples bury the placenta and plant a special tree or shrub over it. If you don’t live in an area that would accommodate that, the placenta can still be lovingly prepared and dried (even in an oven). Then it can be ground, and the granules can be scattered in an area that is special and sacred to you.

Tags: baby blues jodi selander milk supply placenta placenta benefits placenta encapsulation placentophagy postpartum depression traditional chinese medicine



Donna Rose

I have a question/concern..if the placenta is encapsulated..how do you know it is definately your placenta is being returned to you….Also,as a vegan…the capsule is gelatin..a no no..can’ t even imagine eating it any other way than capsule form..??

Adele

This is such an interesting area. I have a question: I took my placenta home from hospital seven months ago, intending to consume it but for various reasons that did not happen. It’s still in my freezer. Would it still have any nutritional value were I to look into getting it encapsulated or would I now be better off just doing something symbolic with it?

Sheri

Great question—we don’t know. You should ask the person who you’d have encapsulate it and see what they think. Come back and let us know what they say.

Sheri

We thought about that too, and would definitely ask the preparer how they ensure that you’re getting your own placenta back. Here at Motherlove we use vegetarian/vegan caps so we know they are available. You would probably want to also ask your preparer which they use.

Lauren Agro

All PBi Specialists do the encapsulations at the mother’s home. The placenta never leaves your sight. If an encapsulation specialist picks up the placenta and drops off the capsules, there really is no way of knowing what you have received. This also reduces a risk that the encapsulation specialist mixes your placenta up with someone elses! The safest method is to just keep the process in the mother’s home.

carmen

The person preparing the placenta will do it in the mother’s kitchen so there is no chance of a switch occuring. 

Adele, if your placenta was freezed properly it should be suitable and beneficial to encapsulate.  However, it may not have the same potency as a fresh placenta.

Specialists from the PBi netwrk use vegan capsules.
http://www.placentabenefits.com

carmen

Sorry, I meant frozen.

Jereka Hunt

Donna, the only way to really know that you are getting your own placenta is by having the placenta prepared at your home.  This is the only way that I prepare placentas and the only way that I would advise having it prepared.  It is also the only way that PlacentaBenefits.info & Jodi, the interviewee of this article, advocate. 
Also, I use only 100% vegetarian capsules. When you inquire for services, be sure to ask if the specialist uses them.  They can be easily obtained from the local health food store. 

Adele, regarding encapsulating a frozen placenta:  It all depends upon how well it’s been packaged.  If it has been kept in a freezer bag, well-wrapped and protected from potential freezer burn AND kept in a deep freezer, it may be encapsulated up to 12 months later.  If it was poorly packaged, then maybe not.  The general limits on consuming meat that is frozen in a regular/small/upright freezer is 3-6 months, depending upon packaging.  If it was packaged superbly, 7 months is not too much of a stretch.  Personally, I would go for it.  You would have to use your own discretion of course and as Sheri said, ask the specialist for their opinion(and I would highly recommend only using a PBi-trained specialist who will come to your home to prepare).  There will be a drop in the amount of available hormones.  The iron will not have depleted whatsoever.  Many women have encapsulated after months of freezing their placentas, with very positive responses to placenta therapy!  You could also use them for PMS regulation or other stressful times/days in your life.

Be skeptical of anyone willing to take a perfect strangers placenta (blood product) to their home to prepare it and bring it back to them.  As mentioned, you do not know if you’re getting your own placenta, you cannot observe their cleaning practices, nor can you ensure their integrity or technique.

Sarah Skinner

As a PES (Placenta Encapsulation Specialist) with PBI. I go to the mother’s house and prepare the placenta, that way there is no question about who’s placenta it is and how it was prepared. THe mother brings the placenta home with her form the hospital and the PES comes to her house. There are vegan capsules that you can use. I personally only use vegan while encapsulating.

Sarah Skinner

Adele,
  As a PES with PBI, I have encapsulated two placentas that have been frozen. What I would ask you is how was the placenta frozen, in a ziplock baggie, a plastic container? How soon after birthing was it frozen? This will determine how much nutritional value it still has left. Think of it as a piece of meat (one that is amazing)! Of course your placenta will not have the same effects it would have if it was encapsulated right after birth but it should still provide you with benefits. Generally one can not tell if the placenta is still “good” until it is defrosted.I would encourage you to contact a PES to find out!!

Leanne - Hamilton Doula Group

A competent placenta service provider will happily share with you her handling methods to put your mind at ease regarding making sure you get your own placenta and that it is prepared in a safe and clean manner.

Many women prefer the ease of having their placenta prepared outside of their home. If they are in hospital, they may not want a virtual stranger in their home unattended. After a home birth, they may appreciate having everyone leave her and her new family in peace. Many partners are supportive of the process for the sake of the new mothers health, but they don’t want to be confronted by the reality of placenta preparation. In this cases, having your placenta prepared in the home or workplace of the service provider is an important feature.

Hamilton Doula Group labels all placenta packages and prepared one placenta at a time. All capsule and tincture packaging is labelled with the mothers name so every woman can be assured she’s getting her own placenta. Further, we follow local food and blood products handling protocols, ensuring that not only is our preparation environment is safe, but that so are we. This prevents cross-contamination between placentas.

Feeling comfortable with your encapsulator is important so please ask lots of questions before you contract their services. We love answering them!

Rean

I also use vegetarian capsules as a matter of routine.  They’re more expensive than gelatin, but I’m a vegetarian myself, so I’m more comfortable with the veggie ones. 

I offer clients a choice of preparation in their home or mine.  If the client has worries about things like switched placentas, wants to participate in the process, or just document it, they will tend to choose prep in their home. 

Many of my clients are reluctant to have the mess and activity going on in their home or have relatives around who would disapprove, and then I’m happy to do it in my home.  I have training in the control of bloodborne pathogens, I’ve done extensive independent research, and I take my work very seriously.  I need to consider *my* family’s safety as well as my clients’.

I have a hard time imagining that anyone who is called to the very intense work of placenta crafts would be careless enough to mix up placentas.  Unless you have two sets of equipment you can only do one prep stage at a time in any case.  It is a simple matter to put sticky notes on prints and labels on bottles so that if I have two sets of placenta craft packages on the go on the same day I can ensure that all of the elements go back to the person who produced them. 

Clients are welcome to ask all the questions they like, and I am always happy to do the work in their home if they prefer.

(And as an aside, *I* am more confident in the integrity of my technique when I’m in my own controlled environment with no distractions.  In someone’s home they inevitably have a million questions, they are often taking pictures, and I’m more likely to forget something or make a mistake with that level of distraction.  Just sayin’.)

April Kurtyka

I am an encapsulation specialist trained through PBi. I found the training wonderful and love the work that Jodi is doing for this field.

However, I am finding it very insulting that encapsulation specialists that work in their own home are being depicted as morally flawed! Of course there are people in any field that can give you a bad name, but every single encapsulation specialist that I know personally does this work because they love helping women and new families have the best start postpartum.They want women to reap all of the benefits from placenta consumption. They would not endanger a woman by giving them someone else’s placenta or even leaving room for a mix up!

Instead of attacking others in our own field, we should be lifting each other up. Trying to get the word out together. This is about helping women, not putting down those that don’t do it your way.

When I came into this field I was seeking a “sisterhood” of like-minded women who wanted to love and help other women. I had an extremely hard time with postpartum depression, which is why I will help each and every woman I can. Whether I am in my own home or not, I am going to help her.

So, can we stop saying “I’m the best because I was trained here” or “I’m the best because I only do placenta encapsulation here…” and instead focus on helping other women who really need us? Lets give women facts about encapsulation, not slam each other. Because truth is, you don’t know whether that woman who does encapsulation from her own home is doing the best job in the world or not. So, speak for yourself only.

And why don’t we all give each other a little love? I am grateful for ALL of you encapsulation specialists that are helping others every single day. Lets keep up the good work!

Courtney

Well said, April. This posting is an interview with Jodi so obviously it’s going to focus on PBi and their specialists but they don’t need to incorrectly incriminate other providers in the comments here for failing to safely and competently prepare placentas when that is just not the case. Every provider of the several dozen that I know handles only one placenta at a time so there is 0 risk of switching placentas, cross contamination, etc. Every provider I know has taken the OSHA blood-born pathogen training as well as food safety so that everything is being prepared to the highest quality standards for both the mother, the provider and their families, regardless of the preparation location that the mother selects. Some mothers can only have their placenta encapsulated if it’s done outside of their home for many reasons. Outside of their home can be any other kitchen that they elect, such as their mother’s, their doula’s, their friend’s or their encapsulator’s. It is the mothers choice where her placenta is prepared just as it is her choice to encapsulate in the first place. Mothers are capable of making safe and informed decisions and they would not choose to have their precious placentas prepared in an unsafe environment by a random person- they choose professionals for a reason and professionals have safety standards and quality standards. As a professionally trained and educated chef with years of experience, I can guarantee you that I know more about food safety but I’m not going to stand here and say they’re incompetent or practicing dangerously just because I have that specific type of training and they don’t. That is an incorrect assumption going both directions.

Every woman (and the two men) that take it upon themselves to learn how to provide this wonderful service to women do it because they genuinely care about women’s health and well-being. As April basically says, instead of the us versus them mentality, I wish would would all just realize that we’re on the same team and be more “Yay Team Placenta!” and less negative towards eachother. We are all on the same team, providing the same great service to women in our areas for the same reasons. We have the same goal of making this safely available and appropriately prepared for women everywhere who want it. That’s all there is to it.

Regarding the capsules, I use only the highest quality vegetarian capsules made from 100% vegetable derived source HPMC (Hidroxy, Propyl, Methyl, Cellulose), which are free of starches, sugar, corn, syrup(obviously including high fructose corn syrup), wheat, dairy, artificial dyes/flavors and other potential irritants or preservatives. The v-caps I use for the encapsulation process are Kosher & Halal certified. I find they are much higher quality than standard gelatin capsules anyways so I use them for all of my mamas.

Amanda

this article is not at all informational.  it doesn’t discuss and risk/benefit or ANYthing
All it does is provide commercial exposure to an organization.  why not do a little teaching?


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