Ok, I’ll admit, I looked way more seriously into placenta encapsulation after hearing about Kourtney Kardashian doing it a few years ago. (Don’t judge, it’s a very old guilty pleasure, but with her appeal of organic, dairy-free, everything-free diet and 3 gorgeous kids she’s kind of my secret inspiration.) Sad I know but I’m happy to admit this after it led me to trying something that ended up feeling pretty natural.
I didn’t tell anyone except Gigi and my mum about ingesting my placenta but that’s what I did and now I’m announcing it to the world wide web! Along with telling people about my decision to hypnobirth and home birth I didn’t want to feel judged and have my decision tainted because of the look someone gave me (I’m sensitive like that). I did tell my sister, who actually declared “you’ve gone too far now!” (i.e. you’ve lost the plot) after only just getting over the home birth decision. So we decided to keep it to ourselves.
My mum got the placenta duty for after the birth and did the job with pride. Making sure the box was clean, the label was on and that it went in the fridge and that she contacted the placenta lady, as we liked to call her. For me taking the capsules was a much easier thought (especially being vegetarian) but I did opt to add in a raw placenta smoothie. This could be my last and only opportunity I thought, so I may as well go for it. I didn’t pressure myself and thought if I can’t bring myself to drink it then I won’t, but I did and found myself so upset after the third and last smoothie.
I should definitely state here that I’m no scientist but why is ingesting your placenta taboo, gross or hippy? Since exploring a hypnobirthing/natural birth route this appears not to be so much the case amongst others in this sector but to the rest of the birthing world i.e. EVERYONE, it’s just not spoken about. Most of us are aware that most mammals ingest their placenta, raw and usually within 24 hours. This doesn’t mean that we of course should be doing everything all animals do but it is a good reason to look into it. Most people assume it’s to prevent detection from predators. What isn’t made known is that we don’t know this for a fact since no animal has made an attempt to communicate this information to us. What we do know is that there have been nutritional, pain relief, lactation benefits to some animals where studies have been done. Unfortunately these studies are neither controlled enough nor do they translate to a placenta pill type ingestion.
Trawling through the internet there is plenty of ‘don’t bother eating your placenta’ type information, mainly based on the fact that no recent controlled study has been done. We know however that the placenta, though usually efficiently used to supply nutrients to our little ones, contains a list of hormones, chemicals, iron and proteins that can certainly be used further as healing substances afterwards. Some amazing properties include Prolactin which increases milk supply, Oxcytocin reduces post-partum bleeding and counteracts cortisol, POEF (placental opioid enhancing factors) which increase endorphins and reduce pain, and high levels of Prostaglandin which assist in the shrinking of the uterus. So it wasn’t just completely the ‘fad’ as some health professionals profess it to be that convinced me to encapsulate my placenta but research into this amazing organ and the potential benefits that it could provide me and my newborn baby.
I also think it quite interesting (and perhaps related) that we are so keen to detach from our placenta in general. A whole other topic in general, (read more here) delayed cord clamping is becoming more of the norm but generally women post-birth feel very eager to just ‘get the placenta out’ the quickest and easiest way and dispose of it. I know I felt this way the first time round giving birth and had the idea in my head that it was going to be another spanner in the works stopping me from bonding with my baby. Until the midwife at the hospital pointed out- “if you’re so keen for a natural labour, why would you want to use drugs for the last stage”. I had never really thought of it as being part of my labour but it was and is. As a side note to this, an incredible birth photographer Monet-Nicole, centres a lot of her work and focus around the beauty and wonder of placentas immediately after birth. Looking at these beautiful images helped change my opinion on placentas and see them as part of birth. It’s not for everyone BUT if you don’t find them utterly bewitching put me in the nutty house now.
The process in general was pretty simple and went something like this; Placenta goes into a box, in a bag, in the fridge. Placenta lady gets called. Comes over and tells me my placenta is lovely(!!). Makes smoothie with Gigi in the kitchen. Puts some in the freezer so Gigi can re-make smoothie. Takes the rest away. Placenta ladies husband cycles around 3 days later with my pills and a pretty umbilical cord. Voila!
As mentioned before I’m no scientist but the effects I noticed after using my placenta pills were worth it for me. If I felt I wanted a milk boost or was starting to feel a little low I began using the pills regularly. I certainly feel that the rush I got from the smoothie on day 3 when you normally feel the world around you is about to crumble and take you with it, made that crumbling much easier to deal with. And that is all I really wanted from my pills, whether placebo effect or scientific fact I’m not sure that for me it mattered. The effects certainly weren’t negative and if anything gave me a natural support at crucial times that I felt I needed it. So my decision though still taboo, felt as informed as it could be. And though I wasn’t so keen to look at my smoothie being made it definitely was not gross, actually it was the best smoothie I’ve ever tasted! As for it being hippy, well that one’s still out for the jury. I mean I decided not to keep the placenta attached and cover it in rosemary but you know what, never say never…