PLACENTA ENCAPSULATION: MY EXPERIENCE

WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS PICTURES OF MY RAW PLACENTA! ;)

Alright, you made it to the second line of this blog post! I realize that consuming a placenta is something most people only think dogs do...and, well, so did I for quite awhile. In fact, I watched my dog eat my horse's placenta after she gave birth to her filly. So I guess you could say I was introduced to this concept in elementary school...

Now, I am by no means an expert on placenta encapsulation or any other form of consumption. I'm just going to share my experience. 

I read about placenta encapsulation early on in my pregnancy. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it and I thought Joe would think it was completely crazy, so I didn't even bring it up to him. Then, we learned about it during one of our birth classes. The doula who taught the class shared about how it can help with many things including energy, milk supply, and balancing hormones. During pregnancy, you have ALL THE HORMONES - and then when you give birth, those hormone levels drop significantly. Consuming your placenta brings back some of those hormones, creating a better balance to help with mood swings and even postpartum depression.

Joe and I talked a lot throughout my pregnancy about the likelihood of me experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). I have a long history of depression and anxiety, so we braced ourselves for PPD. When we learned about encapsulation during that birth class, Joe asked me afterwards if it was something I wanted to do. I was honestly surprised because I figured he would be totally weird out by it! But he said that if I thought I might get PPD, and this could potentially help, it would be worth it.

We did some more research and found pretty conflicting research. The safest way to do encapsulation is the traditional Chinese method (it's cleaned, cooked, dehydrated, blended and put into capsules) and that's how the specialist we would work with would handle it, so we knew it was safe. Still, some evidence showed that there were many benefits, and other evidence showed that it was more of a placebo effect. We decided that, if this could help me - even if it was just a placebo effect - it was worth a shot.

A few months and many placenta pills later, here's a breakdown of my experience by category. I will say that there's really no way to know if these things were influenced by my placenta since this was my only experience with birth and encapsulation, so do with this as you wish!

  • IRON LEVELS/ENERGY: Let's face it - no one feels all that rested when it comes to being on a newborn's timetable. But, I will say that as sleep deprived as I was, I was surprised at how much energy I did have during my waking hours. I was tired, but I wasn't a zombie. 
  • MILK SUPPLY: Overall I've had a great milk supply. I've never been low or had to supplement. The only reason why I would want an increase and have considered taking a lactation supplement would be to build a freezer stash, but I'm not sure that I really need one at this point anyway. I will say that my milk came in quickly and the day before I started taking my placenta pills we met with a lactation consultant who confirmed that I had a great supply. So while I know that the pills didn't have a part in my initial supply, they may helped keep it up all this time. But, who knows?
  • HORMONES/MOOD SWINGS/PPD: Alright. Here's the grayest of all areas. I had Andrie on a Saturday, and we brought her home on a Monday evening. It could have been morning, but I didn't want to leave the hospital. I became extremely emotional that day. I cried as we packed up because I just wanted to stay forever. The next few days were extremely rough emotionally. I had my placenta encapsulated and began taking the pills on Thursday night. By the weekend I was feeling a little better. I gave it 4 weeks total before I ended up going on medication for PPD. Looking back, I do believe that the placenta pills helped me emotionally. They just didn't help enough. My speculation is that if I was not already so prone to depression I think they might have helped tremendously. And I think if I did not have them I would have been even more depressed than I already was. Essentially, I think they took the edge off, which I am grateful for.
  • OVERALL RECOVERY: Other than PPD and recovering from my second-degree episiotomy, I felt super great after giving birth! I greatly attribute this to having a natural birth, but I also believe that the placenta pills could have also positively influenced my overall postpartum recovery.

On a completely different side of things, I was absolutely in awe looking at the beautiful organ that gave life to my daughter for 9 months. Many people call the placenta the "Tree of Life", and you'll see why in the images below. I literally almost cried when I saw it all clean and beautiful! And Andrie's umbilical cord...wowwwww. Our specialist shaped it into a heart and dehydrated it and it's still so beautiful. Now that she's born, I'm the one who gives her nourishment. Until her birth, it was the placenta and umbilical cord that did that for me. I just think that's pretty darn neat. I'm thankful for them and they are so beautiful to me.

So, the million dollar question: Will I do placenta encapsulation with our next baby? We've briefly discussed it, and really aren't sure. Like I mentioned before, it's so hard to know what it did or did not help because we have no other experience to compare it to. If it were cheap I think it would be a no brainer...but it isn't. So...I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there! I will say, though, that getting to see my placenta (clean) and having Andrie's umbilical cord as a keepsake (even if that's kinda weird) made it totally worth it this go-round.