Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Placenta Encapsulation - Not Just For Hippies!


When my midwife had her baby in November, I was thrilled to be able to encapsulate her placenta for her. My amazing friend on the other side of the continent sent me her instructions on how she went about the process, and I was amazed how easy the entire thing was.

Even though a lot of people don't know about ingesting the placenta after birth, it is slowly coming around. Just like homebirth and unassisted birth, the numbers are slowly climbing, and more women are learning the benefits of either cooking and eating, just eating, or encapsulating their placentas for use after birth.

When I was encapsulating her placenta, I found an amazing resource that helps show the benefits of encapsulating a placenta, plus it can hook you up with someone that does it in your area, which I think is really cool. Though, anyone can do it, it truly isn't hard, you just have to be able to stand the sight of placenta, the smell, cutting it, cooking it, and grinding it. Which to me is amazing.

On this site, they list the benefits of ingesting the placenta after birth. The list is truly phenomenal.
  • Contain your own natural hormones
  • Perfectly made for you
  • Balance your system
  • Replenish depleted iron
  • Give you more energy
  • Lessen bleeding postnatally
  • Increase milk production
  • Have a happier postpartum period
  • Hasten return of your uterus to prepregnancy size
  • Be helpful during menopause
(All from this page)

There is so much more that ingesting your placenta can do for you, but these are they key. For myself, anything to lessen the bleeding after giving birth and helps me stay happier by slowly dropping my hormones instead of a sudden drop is why I would take it. On that link, there are articles talking about each point in detail, I really encourage you to check it out and see for yourself why it is an amazing thing.

Since I encapsulated my midwife's placenta, I was recently able to encapsulate another one for a single mom where I live. Even my three year old daughter loves to help, and it is a great learning experience for both of us to be able to study the placenta and help women with their postpartum period, even if it is just this little bit.

Placentas come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, weights, everything. The first placenta I did was from a cesarean, so it wasn't completely whole, and this last one I did was from a vaginal birth and the placenta was intact and beautiful. I am always amazed the difference between them depending on how the birth went.

The encapsulation process that I do, for anyone interested you can google the raw hydration method (NOT the chinese method), for me it takes about 5-6 hours, but my oven doesn't go as low temperature wise as I wish it did, so mine cooks a bit faster though I keep the oven door cracked to help circulate the air.

When I start, I always love to look at the placenta. Check out the cord and the sacs, if there are any calcifications (spots where the placenta has started to age and doesn't work as well), if there are any problems with the placenta in any way. Now, I don't know much about them yet, and thankfully both the placentas I have done were very healthy, but I like to check anyway.

My favorite part of the entire process though, and this is just something that I do for the women, something my midwife taught me, is I do a placenta print for them before I start the actual process of encapsulating.

She uses ink pads (but I keep forgetting to go out and get some) so I just use craft paint, though it doesn't work as well as the ink pads.

The first placenta I did :)

The second placenta :)

I love how they end up looking like a tree, the tree of life per se, and if I had used ink they would have come out better. With ink, you can see the veins better, so it looks more like a tree with branches and such instead of just a big blob thing.

Ok, now we get to the good stuff :). If you are squeamish about placenta, this is probably where you should stop. The next few pictures will be actual placenta, though they aren't really gory, but better safe than sorry.


The placenta not only feeds your baby for duration of your pregnancy past the first trimester, it regulates all the hormones you have in your body. The ovaries are the first to maintain your hormones, but once your placenta is ready to go, it takes over the production and maintenance of all the hormones needed for pregnancy. Which is quite a bit deal.

The placenta has two sides, the side that faces the baby which the cord comes out of, and the maternal side, which to me looks like ground beef, but in bigger chunks. The fetal side is very smooth, very shiny, and the maternal side is the exact opposite. In the middle of the placenta is where the blood flow switches between the vessels from the mother to baby, without the blood ever actually mixing. It is such an amazing process, and the placenta does this for 7+ months! How is this not the coolest organ in our bodies?!

Plus, after birth, your body automatically expels it the same way it does the baby, without any outside help. It clamps the blood flow on its own after the placenta is detached, and shrinks back to normal size. Seriously, coolest thing ever.

My first placenta, very round, though I hadn't cleaned it off yet, and the cord attached was very short.
My second placenta. Oval shaped, the cord wasn't in the center, but what was still attached was really long. It was fun to be able to check it out in its entirety instead of just a stub.

Throughout the process of encapsulating (you can see the pictures of the process with the first placenta on my blog) I cut the sacs off, cut the cord off, cleaned the blood out, cut it into pieces, slow cooked it, ground it, and then put it into pills. My first placenta made 147 placenta pills, my second one made 216, which just shows the difference between a whole placenta and one that is ripped out and in pieces.

Now, there isn't really any research on how many pills a woman should take a day, but I tell the ones I do that it is anywhere from 2-4 a day, though it is up to you since you are just putting your placenta back in your body. Some women pop one whenever they start to feel run down or sad or just need an extra boost. It truly all depends on what you are comfortable doing.

The placenta is absolutely fascinating. It is treated as waste and a biohazard when in truth it is one of the greatest organs we have that we expel after birth and throw away. It does so much for the body and the baby, and even in birth videos, they never show the birth of the placenta, which is always something I love to watch almost as much as the birth of the baby. It is such an integral part of the birth process, and in most countries and cultures, the placenta is put into rituals, eaten, buried, and sometimes not even cut from the baby until it falls off on its own.

There are so many things that we don't understand about how the birth process works, and maybe we will be able to have more than a handful of people in the next few years wanting their placentas so they can start a ritual with their family, whether they just want to bury it under a bush, or if they will ingest it.

The placenta is remarkable, I wish every woman knew if its incredible power.


KellyNaturally said... [Reply to comment]

This is amazing! Both of my births were hospital C-sections; I didn't even get to see my placentas. Imagine if even hospital-birthing women had access to this process --- to bring more natural process into a medicalized birth could really help with healing!

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Both of the placentas I have done have actually been hospital births. Where I am, you have to sign consents about taking a biohazard out of the hospital and such, but it is really easy, and no one has given me trouble taking them yet :) I think it could definitely help those that have less than great birth experiences, so they can help their hormones return to normal and heal a little faster.

Katie Sparkles said... [Reply to comment]

At the time I was not very interested in my placenta only curious to see if it looked healthy but my midwives thought it was amazing and they were really surprised that it was very heart shaped they'd never seen one quite like it. Now I wish I had a picture at least.

Lucinda said... [Reply to comment]

I can't wait to do this next time! I didn't know enough the first time around and though I had a homebirth, I chose not to keep the placenta or even do a print (although I did get to look at it). Pretty sure I couldn't eat it as is, but encapsulation seems like the perfect compromise to me.

mommypants13 said... [Reply to comment]

soo cool heres to hoping i have another baby!

April G said... [Reply to comment]

Placentas are amazing! When my midwife showed me my firstborn's placenta all I remember thinking is, "It's so big!".

When my twins were born in October the doctor brought the placentas in to show me when I was nursing them immediately postpartum because she remembered I'd asked to see them. They were just barely attached, and it was so incredible... I couldn't believe they'd both fit in me along with those babies, and that they'd done such a great job nourishing my children for 9 months. My son's umbilical cord was all twisted because he was a real mover in the womb, flipping around. My daughter's was straight. The placentas had such a story to tell. :)

maggie said... [Reply to comment]

please could you explain how you do a print and then encapsulate without tainting the placenta with craft paint? Would love to try it.

Minnesotagal said... [Reply to comment]

I love placentas too! Such a fascinating organ! I did a placental print of mine and now have the placenta in the freezer. I meant to plant it in the garden but for some odd reason can't seem to let it go. I'm not sure I could bring myself to ingest it but I like the idea of using it to feed new life in the garden. When I did my placental prints I did the first just using the retained blood in the placenta as "ink". For the second I used green ink for the body and brown ink for the cord so it actually looks like a tree. Even my husband, who was entirely gorssed out by the whole thing, thinks that the final print looks very cool.

Minnesotagal said... [Reply to comment]

If you are going to print a placenta prior to encapsulation I might recommend using plant based paints or inks. Not sure how well they'd work but these would be totally safe and edible. http://www.walkingsticktoys.com/index.php/ID/3e0480b17e853e2d132bbfb371e91b18/item/Eco-Paint/sID/4099aa6d/fuseaction/store.detail.htm

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Maggie - I use washable acrylic craft paint, only put a light layer, and it washes right off when I clean and prepare the placenta. Just make sure to run it under water and use your hands to wash it off and it just wipes clean. It's amazing how it washes right off the very smooth fetal side.

Julia said... [Reply to comment]

Fascinating! I agree with you that the placenta is an amazing organ! I actually had not heard of placenta encapsulation before I had my baby so we buried ours but I am intrigued by it and all of the health benefits that come from it.

Pocket.Buddha said... [Reply to comment]

I really wish I'd been able to at least make a print of my placenta, but mine had had an undiagnosed infection for quite some time before Oliver was born and it looked NOTHING like the ones you got to encapsulate. Well, it looked kind of like the 1st, only damaged and rotten.

My OB barely let me look at it before he sent it away to be cultured and tested.

Next baby I am definately going to look into encapsulation.

Pocket.Buddha said... [Reply to comment]

just let me add that yes, the placenta is amazing. Even though mine had been so badly infected, it still kept my baby healthy and even though I had traces of the infection in my blood stream, my baby was totally healthy, except for a raised temperature at birth his blood was totally clear of infection.

Tamara said... [Reply to comment]

I encapsulated my own and after seeing the power of placenta medicine I got certified and for the last year and a half have offered this service to other moms in my area. I love working with placentas and it does not matter what kind of birth the mom had the placenta is still usually able to be encapsulated.

Glad to see that you used your placentas for their final job of nourishing you and did not merely throw them out with the trash. Truly awesome!

For anyone interested you can find Independent Placenta Service Providers at: http://www.avoidthebabyblues.com

Much Placenta Love!

Charisma Combestra said... [Reply to comment]

Just had to say thank you. My husband and I are going to start trying soon, and your blog has helped me greatly. I haven’t even ovulated yet, and people are already judging me for wanting a home or birth center, midwife assisted birth. So thanks for all of the awesome advice, I can’t wait to put it to use..read also Dentist for kids in Las Vegas.

Ashfiya said... [Reply to comment]

This is the first time i read such type of blogs,Its really useful for the users.Keep updated This type of blogs provide information to the users placenta encapsulation specialist

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