Placenta encapsulation is a practice that involves dehydrating and encapsulating the placenta after birth so that it can be consumed by the Mama. While the practice has gained popularity in recent years, and every holistically minded Mama will tell you it is a MUST HAVE, it is important to note that the benefits of placenta encapsulation are largely anecdotal and have not been extensively studied by medical professionals. However, many Mamas who have tried placenta encapsulation report a variety of benefits for both themselves and their babies (including me!). In this blog post, let's dive into the benefits of placenta encapsulation.
Increased Energy Levels
One of the most commonly reported benefits of placenta encapsulation is increased energy levels. The placenta is rich in iron, which is an essential mineral for the production of red blood cells. This can be especially beneficial for new mothers who often experience fatigue and exhaustion after giving birth. By consuming their placenta, mothers may be able to increase their energy levels and combat postpartum fatigue.
Improved Mood and Reduced Postpartum Depression
Another reported benefit of placenta encapsulation is improved mood and a reduced risk of postpartum depression. The placenta contains hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin, which can help balance out the hormonal fluctuations that occur after birth. This can be especially important for mothers who are at risk of developing postpartum depression or who have a history of depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mood disorder that affects many new mothers, with symptoms ranging from feelings of sadness and anxiety to difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite. While the causes of PPD are not fully understood, it is believed that hormonal fluctuations and changes in brain chemistry may play a role. Here are some ways in which placenta pills may help reduce the risk of PPD:
Hormonal Balance: As mentioned earlier, the placenta contains a variety of hormones that can help balance out the hormonal fluctuations that occur after childbirth. Low levels of progesterone after childbirth, for example, have been linked to an increased risk of PPD. By consuming placenta pills, women may be able to help replenish their hormone levels and reduce the risk of PPD.
Improved Mood: Some studies suggest that consuming placenta pills may help improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. For example, a study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing found that women who consumed placenta capsules reported fewer depressive symptoms compared to women who did not.
Increased Energy: The placenta is rich in iron, which is an essential mineral for the production of red blood cells and can help reduce feelings of fatigue and improve energy levels. By consuming placenta pills, women may be able to increase their iron levels and improve their overall energy levels, which may help reduce feelings of depression.
Improved Sleep: The hormone melatonin, which is involved in regulating sleep and wake cycles, is found in the placenta. By consuming placenta pills, women may be able to help regulate their melatonin levels and improve their sleep, which can have a positive effect on mood and reduce the risk of PPD.
While the research on the effectiveness of placenta pills for reducing the risk of PPD is still limited, these potential benefits are promising. However, it is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of placenta encapsulation with a healthcare provider before deciding whether to try the practice, particularly for women with a history of depression or other mood disorders. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the placenta is properly handled and prepared to reduce the risk of infection.
Aside from PPD, another condition that is not discussed enough is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER). There are practicing doctors, nurses and even midwives that are unfamiliar with this, even though there is a growing number of Mamas that struggle with it during breastfeeding or pumping. DMER is a condition characterized by sudden feelings of sadness, anxiety, or irritability that occur just before or during milk letdown. Often Mamas explain the feeling as being "trapped in a box" or "feeling alone" and can be paired with aversions to noise, food, etc. While the causes of DMER are not fully understood, it is believed to be related to the rapid changes in hormone levels that occur during lactation. If you are struggling with either PPD or DMER, I encourage you to reach out to a medical professional. If you want to talk to someone who has been through it, email me anytime. I experienced PPD after the birth of my first child and still struggle with DMER while nursing. Connecting with other Mamas that are having these same symptoms and feelings through a Facebook community is also another great option.
Increased Milk Production
Mothers who consume their placenta have also reported an increase in milk production. The placenta contains a hormone called prolactin, which is responsible for milk production. By consuming their placenta, mothers may be able to increase their prolactin levels and thus produce more milk for their baby.
Reduced Pain and Swelling
The placenta also contains natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which can help reduce pain and swelling after birth. By consuming their placenta, mothers may be able to reduce their reliance on pain medication and alleviate discomfort naturally.
Improved Healing and Recovery
Finally, placenta encapsulation may also help improve healing and recovery after birth. The placenta is rich in nutrients such as iron, protein, and vitamin B12, which can help replenish the mother's body after the stress of childbirth. Additionally, the hormones found in the placenta can help stimulate the uterus to contract and reduce bleeding, which can help speed up the healing process.
Increased Iron Levels
The placenta is rich in iron, which is an essential mineral for the production of red blood cells. After childbirth, many women experience a decrease in iron levels due to blood loss, which can lead to anemia. By consuming their placenta, women can help replenish their iron stores and reduce the risk of anemia.
The placenta contains a variety of hormones that can help balance out the hormonal fluctuations that occur after childbirth. For example, the hormone progesterone can help reduce inflammation and promote relaxation, while the hormone oxytocin can help stimulate milk production and promote bonding between the mother and baby.
The placenta contains immune-boosting compounds such as immunoglobulins and stem cells, which can help enhance the mother's immune system and protect against infection, which is very important while breastfeeding.
Reduced Postpartum Bleeding
The placenta contains substances that can help stimulate uterine contractions, which can help reduce postpartum bleeding and promote healing.
Reduced Risk of Postpartum Thyroiditis
Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition that affects up to 10% of women after childbirth and can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and depression. Some studies suggest that consuming the placenta may help reduce the risk of postpartum thyroiditis by regulating thyroid hormone levels.
Why is Placenta Encapsulation Recommended for Postpartum Healing?
The placenta is a rich source of various vitamins and minerals that are essential for both the Mama and the developing baby. These minerals keep the baby healthy during pregnancy, and are still present after birth. Here are some of the key vitamins and minerals found in the placenta:
Iron: Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. The placenta contains high levels of iron, which can help replenish iron stores in the mother's body after childbirth.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are important for mood regulation. The placenta contains high levels of vitamin B6, which may help improve mood and reduce the risk of postpartum depression.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is important for the development of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. The placenta contains high levels of vitamin B12, which can help support the baby's development.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. The placenta contains high levels of vitamin E, which can help support the baby's immune system.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health. The placenta contains high levels of vitamin K, which can help support the baby's bone development and prevent bleeding disorders.
Zinc: Zinc is important for immune function, wound healing, and cell growth and division. The placenta contains high levels of zinc, which can help support the baby's growth and development.
Overall, the placenta contains a variety of important vitamins and minerals that can support both the mother and the developing baby. While more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of consuming placenta pills, these nutrients are believed to be beneficial for postpartum healing and recovery. Every Mama has a different experience, but looking into placenta encapsulation, or the freeze drying of placenta pieces for smoothies, etc. is worth looking into.
It is important to note that while these potential benefits are promising, the research on the effectiveness of placenta pills is still limited, and the practice is not without risks. It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of placenta encapsulation with a healthcare provider before deciding whether to try the practice. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the placenta is properly handled and prepared to reduce the risk of infection. Only seek out a reputable and trusted person to handle your placenta and process it as needed.
For additional resources on placenta encapsulation, check out the following sources:
Young SM, Benyshek DC. In Search of Human Placentophagy: A Cross-Cultural Survey of Human Placenta Consumption, Disposal Practices, and Cultural Beliefs. Ecol Food Nutr. 2010;49(6):467-484. doi: 10.1080/03670244.2010.524106
Farr A, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Baergen RN, Grünebaum A. Human placentophagy: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Mar;218(3):401.e1-401.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.10.002.
Selander J, Cantor A, Young SM, Benyshek DC. Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption. Ecol Food Nutr. 2013;52(2):93-115. doi: 10.1080/03670244.2012.719356
Grunebaum A, McCullough LB, Sapra KJ, Brent RL, Levene MI, Arabin B, Chervenak FA. Placentophagy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Oct;215(4):B15-B16. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.07.040.
Kristal MB, DiPirro JM, Thompson AC, Friesen HG. Placenta as a Lactagogon: A Pilot Study. J Hum Lact. 2012;28(2):143-148. doi: 10.1177/0890334411433009
Have you had your placenta encapsulated before? Let me know in the comments!