I consumed my own placenta.
Let me just say I don’t wear hemp, I don’t own Birkenstocks, I do shave my armpits. I mean no offense, but I do not fit the “granola” stereotype. So, if you’re thinking, “Ew, that’s so crunchy and weird,” I assure you it’s also scientific and reasonable. If you’re thinking “Yes, finally, a crunchy topic!” read on my earthy friend. My personal experience with placenta encapsulation has been so wildly positive, I jumped at the opportunity to share it.
First, the backstory: I gave birth to my first son five years ago. It was horrible. My labor and delivery were not at all what I had hoped for, ending in a C-section. Then postpartum depression struck. I remember one day, when I was home alone, I laid the baby in his crib, walked downstairs, grabbed the car keys and stood at the front door for hours absolutely paralyzed with anxiety. I just wanted to run. It wasn’t that I hated my life or the baby, I literally didn’t feel anything at all. There was no connection between myself and my life and my son. My brain had been chemically hijacked, my body hormonally derailed, creating an absolute darkness that consumed me.
A dear friend came to visit and told me I needed help, and quickly. I ended up on an antidepressant and in therapy for the first year of my son’s life.
Fast forward to this go-round with Baby #2. As a registered nurse, I am absolutely not anti-medicine or anti-doctor, but I know there are many routes one can take to improve health and prevent illness. (Want to avoid heart disease? Then avoid the Golden Arches, etc). This brings me to my personal choice for placenta encapsulation.
Let’s think about this: A woman’s body is so powerful it grows an entire organ for pregnancy. The placenta is the epicenter of fetal health. It is a nutrient demi-god. It provides exactly what the baby needs to go from clump of cells to fully-formed little human person. Once the baby is born, it realizes the work is done and exits the building. The placenta is delivered after the baby (yes, there’s something else that has to get pushed out after the little human person) and examined. The placenta tells the story of the pregnancy and can indicate the health of the new child. But then, this incredible, awesome organ gets unceremoniously discarded into the trash. Even animals in nature are in-the-know enough to eat their placentas post-birth and not be so wasteful.
So came the big day, and Baby #2 arrived kindly, via vagina. I had diligently informed everyone caring for me during pregnancy and labor that the placenta was to be saved (very important side note for interested moms-to-be: Start this conversation and paperwork well *before* the day you show up in rip-roaring labor), and that a wonderful woman would be coming to pick it up for encapsulation. After a few weird looks and excessive (but necessary) paperwork, my fabulous placenta was safely labelled and refrigerated for take-out. A few days later I was given my jar of capsules.
As I held the little capsules of promise in my hand, I thought, “Why not? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to taste placenta flavor, right?” I may have talked to myself for a few minutes while scoping out the gel-caps filled with dehydrated power. In the end, the promise of good health won out and I swallowed them down.
I assure you they did not taste of placenta, they did not cause me to make sacrifices to the goddess of the moon, they did not cause me to become a cannibal. However, I truly believe they did cause me to heal faster, they did improve my milk supply, they did keep me feeling emotionally even, physically strong and mentally revitalized. Everyone and your mother expects you to be over-the-moon when you bring home that newborn, but the reality is, the first few months are tough. Between the sweet little center of your universe that turns into a delirious monster when the sun goes down, the pain in your breasts, the ache in your back, your throbbing head, the dismantled soreness of your nethers, the raging hemorrhoids, the dessert thirst and the consuming hunger, postpartum can be a pretty wild ride. This postpartum experience was kittens and rainbows and sunshine compared to my first, and my personal conviction is that placenta capsules play a big role in that.
So do yourself a favor, after you’ve been totally vagical (yup, you read that right) and rocked your birth, don’t waste the goodness Mother Nature gave you. A healthy Mama is a happy Mama ready to snuggle, to bond, to be wooed and to woo the most breathtakingly beautiful person she has ever met—her precious baby. Honor your placenta and it will honor you.
If you're curious, here are a few of the sites I found useful when I began reading about placental encapsulation, scientific research, cost, local encapsulators, etc.:
Here's who to email for info for-the Philadelphia area encapsulator I used: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan King, RN, BSN, is the nurse manager at The Birth Center, in Bryn Mawr, PA. It is a free-standing, midwife-run, women’s health center. The Birth Center cares for women of all ages, including full gynecological care, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum. Megan has a BSN from the University of Pittsburgh and previously worked in the NICU, outpatient clinic, homecare, and high-risk hospital labor and delivery.