What is Placenta Encapsulation?

placenta encapsulation

Placenta encapsulation is the process of taking your placenta and converting it into pill form.  Yes, that’s right!  Being a vegetarian all my life, the first time I heard of women ingesting their placenta, I was admittedly surprised.  When I started to hear the personal stories of my clients who had transformational experiences and first hand witnessed significant changes in a mother’s body, I was convinced of the benefits.  I also became a huge proponent of this practice and do not believe that it’s a form of eating meat.

The placenta is the organ that supports your baby’s growth throughout the nine months of gestation.  It is extraordinary in that while nutrients and waste products pass through the placenta, this wonderful organ does not hold, store or keep waste materials.  Rather, it transports them out of the uterus.  As an organ of the endocrine system, it produces hormones for both pregnancy and postpartum.  These hormones help to sustain the pregnancy and prepares the mother’s body for breastfeeding.  

Why is Placenta Encapsulation Important?

Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women in the US (APA).  Breastfeeding rates start rather high in America, but drop off significantly within 3 months and this may be due to low milk supply.  It is also common for new mothers to have low iron levels and bleed for several weeks or longer after the birth.  These common postpartum occurrences have the potential to be affected by ingesting the placenta.  Why wouldn’t you increase the chances of a less complicated postpartum period?

What’s In the Placenta?

According to Ayurveda, the placenta is known as apara rasa, the purest form of tissue. Makes sense as it nourishes and sustains the baby.  But, what does it contain?  Animal studies have shown that the placenta contains:

  • Prolactin – Thought to help in lactation by helping to increase milk production
  • Corticotropin Releasing Hormone – Thought to help in postpartum mood disorders or baby blues
  • Opioids – Thought to help in pain relief
  • Hemoglobin – Thought to help in anemia
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) – Thought to help with fatigue through increased energy levels
  • Prostaglandin – Thought to help in reducing bleeding and returning the uterus to its original size
  • Immune Factors – Thought to help in providing immunity

There is an important energetic / elemental understanding of the placenta.  The fundamental understanding of placenta encapsulation is that it provides the mother with the qualities of warmth and nourishment that have been drained after the birth of her baby.  After the birth, the space that was once filled by the baby is now empty.  The uterus and body become susceptible to the qualities of lightness, cold and dryness. These qualities are the causative factors for many of the postpartum complications mentioned previously that women face.  When these qualities enter the body, they can cause constipation, dry skin, pain in the body, disturbed sleep, anxiety, overwhelm and postpartum blues.  The reintroduction of the balancing energies by the placenta contributes to mitigating postpartum issues.  

What do Real Mom’s Have to Say?

After deciding to provide this service to new moms, I was able to witness first hand, the profound effect that ingesting the placenta can have.  

Placenta encapsulation can help after postpartum blood loss…

Jane had a successful VBAC but lost a lot of blood after the delivery of her second baby. A day after her delivery, she reported feeling so woozy that she couldn’t get up.  Within a few hours of ingesting her placenta pills, the feeling completely disappeared and she felt much better.  

Placenta encapsulation can help with breastmilk production…

Karen, who also had a successful VBAC, had trouble producing milk  for her first child and decided to try placenta encapsulation after the birth of her second.  She called me about 3 weeks after her delivery asking me what she can do because her milk had stopped coming.  Confused because she had requested placenta pills, I asked her if she had been taking them.  She said that she was waiting for the right time. “This is the right time!,” I said.  Immediately, she saw that her milk supply had come back.  

Placenta encapsulation can help with postpartum blues…

Melanie had placenta encapsulation for both of her births.  She noticed that 15 minutes after taking her pills, her mood became significantly better and she didn’t feel as sad.  

Darlene also felt the same way, yet she noticed that around 6pm at night, she felt an overwhelming sense of melancholy and her husband was worried about her.  We modified her dose to have more around 5pm than earlier in the day and after trying the modification once, immediately noticed a difference.  Gabriella had a very difficult birth and felt a deep sense of loss and fear.  She texted me after I delivered her placenta pills, “Thank you so much!  I feel 10x better as soon as I took the pills!”   

I think the biggest thing that convinces me there is something to this are the stories that mothers share with me daily.  As a new mother, you body has just been through the powerful and transformative experience of giving birth.  Physiologically, to prepare you for that transitional moment of motherhood, your body increases the concentration of the stress coping hormone (corticotropin releasing hormone) threefold before your baby was born.  Surprisingly, immediately after birth, the body’s level of that same hormone falls below normal levels.  Doesn’t seem like good timing, does it?!?  Not one of the moms that I have done placenta encapsulation for have reported severe postpartum depression and I believe it is because of the CRH that is contained in the placenta.  

How are These Miracle Pills Made?

While I do not consider the placenta as meat for the sake of ingestion, it was part of a living organism.  Therefore, my belief is that with anything in this world, time contributes to the breakdown and degradation of an object.  This is why, as soon as the placenta is born, it is placed on ice and the encapsulation process is started within 2 hours of its birth.  Ayurveda believes that our state of mind can effect what is around us.  Therefore, while encapsulating a mother’s placenta, continuous positive thoughts and intentions are said. The process starts with the extraneous aspects of the placenta are removed (umbilical cord and amniotic sac) and the placenta is lightly steamed using herbs that are warming to the body.  Ayurveda understands that warming herbs supports and allows for easy digestion by the mother.  The placenta is then sliced into small pieces and then placed in a dehydrator until all water is removed.  This process can take anywhere from 16-18 hours.  The placenta is then ground into a fine powder and then put into vegetarian, chemical free capsules.  The number of capsules depends on the size of the placenta.  

As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I have a consultation with every client prior to their birth.  I understand the way their body functions in order to properly support their placenta preparation as well as determine a dose that helps them.  Most importantly, it will allow me to help them after the baby is born and support any modifications needed in dosage depending on postpartum presentations.

Placenta encapsulation is a perfect compliment to an Ayurvedic postpartum support plan. Utilizing the basic principles of Ayurveda, a practitioner can help a mom be one with nature and replenish herself and her baby.

 

About the author

Viji Natarajan B.S., C.A.S.As a trained and Certified Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist and a Certified Yoga Teacher, I am committed to helping my clients understand themselves on a deeper level. These two ancient, time honored traditions help us to live healthier, happier and more balanced lives.

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