Information For Mothers
When I began my doula work attending births in 2006, I was amazed to see the startling beauty of this magnificent organ. The body of the placenta is supple, iridescent and glowing. The vessels branch out over its surface in a remarkable tree of life pattern, a reminder of our connection to the natural world.
Eating the placenta is a practice known as placentophagy. Almost all mammals ingest their placenta after birth, sometimes even ignoring their young until the placenta has been completely consumed. Dehydrating and encapsulating the placenta is the best (and most tasteless) way to preserve and deliver this powerful medicine. Consumption of small doses of your placenta can help to replenish, restore, and rebalance the body after labor and delivery making it Mother Nature’s greatest medicine!
During labor, the 5 heart centers of a woman’s body open energetically to make way for the emotional and spiritual expansion necessary to birth your baby. Immediately, and for days and sometimes weeks after birth, women feel raw, vulnerable and extremely sensitive. Placenta medicine and postpartum bodywork help the mama close these centers in a healthy and respectful way.
Your Placenta is an organ extremely rich in nutrients. It is a travesty of our current medical system that the placenta is routinely discarded as medical waste. Ingesting it in medicinal doses can help your body restore and rebalance itself after giving birth. Traditional Chinese Medicine has used Placenta for thousands of years to replenish the body's "Qi" (life-force energy), and nourish the body's essence. The placenta also stores vital hormones during pregnancy, and after birth the essences can be preserved through proper preparation and storage.
Benefits of Placenta Medicine
The medicine in your placenta is highly beneficial to your body for the first few weeks after giving birth. A basic list of placenta benefits includes:
- Balance Post-Partum Depression
- Encourage Lactation
- Combat Fatigue
- Increase Immunity
- Increase Healing from Trauma
- Increase Post-Partum Iron levels
- Help the Uterus Return to Its Original Size
- Balance Hormones
- Shorten Post-Natal Bleeding Time
- Smooth Out Separation Anxiety
A mother of two writes about the benefits of placentophagy with her second, after experiencing postpartum depression with her first cesarean birth:
“Over the next few days of ingesting my placenta, I noticed the physiological effects… the best results were to be seen in my skin and hair, it retained the bloom of pregnancy over the first postpartum week, and even the skin of my belly seemed supple, not dry as with Sarah, my first child, while my hair was silky and shining. I remembered that human placenta used to be sent to some cosmetic firms to make extracts for beauty care. My milk supply was abundant by the second day. Postnatal euphoria set in - I was so strong and felt as though I could do anything. Simple foods like scrambled eggs tasted wonderful… every time I began to feel at all tearful during these days I found it to be an instant anti-depressant. Placenta is full of natural steroid hormones, so I attribute my postpartum strength to the steroids in the placenta as steroids have a powerful bodybuilding effect. Taking oral iron supplements was also unnecessary at this time. It made me feel so good that I now craved it…the "beauty" effect continued to last and my skin and hair remained healthy - never becoming terribly dry as with my first baby. I also noticed that the lochia lasted for only 10 days, whereas with my first baby the bleeding had continued for about 5 weeks.”
History of Placenta Medicine
Consuming the placenta post-natally is a practice that goes back as far as human kind can be traced. Classical Chinese Medicine has used placenta (called “Zi He Che” in Chinese) for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years. Classical texts describes the medicine as:
“a substance that tonifies the dual deficiency of yin and yang, with the ability to restore the root and return to the body’s primal Qi. Hominis Placenta tonifies both the Qi and Blood, and augments the essence...”
Crucial Nutrient Replacement
Your placenta retains numerous vitamins and hormones from the pregnancy, and should be ingested after giving birth to replenish the body’s resources. Such healing chemicals include:
Gamma globulin - protects the body against infection and boosts the immune system
Hemoglobin - Increases the body’s post-partum iron levels. Treats general iron deficiency and anemia
Urokinase Inhibiting Factor - Ceases post-partum bleeding and increases body’s wound healing capabilities
Prostaglandins - Contain anti-inflammatory properties and helps the uterus return to it pre-pregnancy size
Interferon - Increases the body’s immunity by stimulating the immune system
Cortisone - Helps the body ward off stress and increase natural energy levels
Oxytocin - Promotes natural bonding between the mother and baby, especially in breast-feeding
Prolactin - Promotes lactation
Furthermore, a 1954 medical study conducted on 210 women discovered that 86% of them had a positive increase in their milk production (Placenta as a Lactagogon; Gynaecologia 138: 617-627, 1954.)
Your placenta will be cooked, dehydrated and encapsulated adhering to the strictest standards of safety as set forth by OSHA, and conforming to local health department guidelines for food preparation and safety protocols. The preparation process is always done in a sterile environment, using sterile equipment. It is recommended to prepare the placenta within the first week of giving birth, and should be kept in a refrigerator or cooler until the process begins. However, if it’s not possible, the placenta should be frozen until ready to be processed.
The placenta is prepared fresh (unless circumstances required freezing), with rice wine, precious herbs and fresh ginger to disperse the medicine deeply into the body. It is cleaned, steamed, and cut into very thin slices, then placed in a dehydrator until thoroughly dry. Then it is ground finely and encapsulated. It is believed that the state of mind one carries while working with the placenta will be absorbed into the medicine, so I maintain a healing focus throughout the process. The whole process takes 18-24 hours, definitely a labor of love! The typical dosage is two capsules three times a day for the first two to three weeks or until strength has been restored. It can then be called upon during the stages of your child's development, or where separation from the mother is difficult, e.g. weaning, first steps, day care, travel, etc.
Before You Give Birth
What a blessing to have a new life entering your world! A few notes before you give birth:
Try to arrange encapsulation with me ahead of time to ensure the potency of the medicine. However, your placenta can be frozen after birth and processed at a later date if necessary.
Make sure you have a plan for collecting your placenta and storing it properly. Especially in the case of hospital birth, you need to make arrangements with the midwife/doctor ahead of time to ensure that they keep your placenta for you to take home. Your placenta should be stored in a sealed and sterile plastic container (ziplock bags will work) and kept in the refrigerator below 40 degrees. Be sure your providers do not soak your placenta in salt / saline.
If you have a cesarean birth, ask that your surgery team save your placenta for you immediately after the birth, and have your doula or partner put it in the fridge within 2 hours. If your physician wants to send your placenta to pathology, have them cut a small piece for pathology, or ask that them to do a visual exam in the delivery room instead. Be aware, if your entire placenta goes to pathology, I may be unable to encapsulate it due to the cross contamination that occurs in the pathology lab.
Please contact Tina Dawson to arrange for encapsulation and for more information.
Special thanks to Placenta Encapsulation Specialists of Marin for training and guidance.