“Have you taken your placenta pills today?” was a common and frequent question asked of me by my husband in the early days after delivering my first baby. I was hormonal, emotional and exhausted as most new moms are. There wasn’t much else my husband could to do to help other than encourage some healthy pill popping.
I was an easy sell on the placenta encapsulation concept. It made immediate sense to me, that this nutrient rich organ that has been sustaining my baby and regulating my entire pregnancy could do the same for me post partum. I didn’t see a reason not to have my placenta turned into pills I could take in the early days of life with a newborn.
So I did. And then I did again with my second baby.
I personally think it is a beautiful concept worth consideration from every expecting mom. This is why I felt compelled to share my personal experience here along with information directly from the certified doula and placenta encapsulationist I worked with.
Below, I interview Care Messler, a doula, hypnobirthing instructor and the owner of The Birth Education Center of San Diego, where she offers classes, workshops, resources and a supportive birthing community.
First, my story:
Once I decided to have my placenta encapsulated, I made sure to add it to my birth plan. The line was simple and stated: “Please save my placenta. We are providing a small cooler for it to be placed on ice. I will be having it encapsulated, as I did with my previous delivery.” I made two copies of my birth plan, one for my doctor and one for Chris and at the bottom of Chris’s copy, I added Care’s cell number for him to call when we went into labor.
On delivery day:
- Chris called Care and let her know we were in labor and the baby (and placenta) would be arriving soon.
- We brought a small cooler with us to the hospital.
- After we were checked in, the nurse collected my birth plan and we discussed everything that was listed, including the fact that we would be saving my placenta.
- I delivered the baby and moments later, I delivered my placenta
- Both of my doctors, after each delivery, asked if I’d like to see my placenta and of course I said yes. It was a big, beautiful, healthy looking organ.
- Nurses collected it, put it in a container and placed it in the cooler on ice.
- Chris signed a form taking responsibility for the organ and called Care who would be coming to pick it up.
- Since he had been the one to sign for the placenta, Chris needed to be the one to remove it from the hospital. He brought it downstairs to Care.
- Care returned the placenta pills to us while we were still in the hospital!
- (We paid $250 for the service, from start to finish)
Below are the benefits you may expect to receive via Placenta Encapsulation:
- Lessened postpartum depression, baby blues
- Replenished nutrients & natural pain relief
- Increased milk production
- Increased energy after birth, less fatigue
- Lessened postpartum bleeding after birth
- Natural Iron supplementation after birth
- Insomnia support
- Hastened Uterus contractions to return to normal size
With both babies, my milk came in hard and fast. With Ellie (first born) we had some issues nursing (link), so I started pumping pretty soon after my milk was in and fortunately I always had a strong supply. With Layla (second born), the milk was almost too much, and I eventually moved to block feeding and would nurse one side at a time.
My baby blues were much more noticeable the first time around. They lasted about a month (though it felt longer), and a lot of that can be attributed to our early challenges. It’s hard to know what the pills helped with and what they didn’t because I never experienced post-partum without them. (See one story in the testimonials below).
Although I really loved my experience with my placenta pills, I’m no expert. So I recently got with Care to shed light on some common questions about the process and benefits:
The first question of course is why. Why should a mother eat her placenta after birth?
While you’re pregnant and growing a baby, you have 10 months of hormones building up. Then, when you deliver the baby and your placenta comes out, you experience a massive hormone drop. Suddenly this organ that has been flooding you with feel-good hormones is gone so consuming the placenta is like weaning you off the hormones you have been getting for months.
That’s why its so common to get the baby blues in those first weeks – almost everyone gets those – because you’re overtired, hormones are wacky, partners don’t know what to do. That normal crying, those are the baby blues. The depression comes way after that. Those that are prone to depression, getting those hormones back in at a steady rate can help them decrease in a soft way, so they have the extra support, while their hormones are naturally getting back into balance.
How do you prepare the placenta and how long does it take to process?
I do it in my home to ensure the environment is sterile and sanitary and to make sure it’s done correctly (as opposed to doing it in the mom’s home). I process it as soon as I get it so it doesn’t stay in the refrigerator for long.
I only have one placenta in the house at a time; the risk of mixing up a placenta with someone else’s is a risk I NEVER want to take. If I have two moms that deliver at the same time, I tell them as soon as I am done processing the first, I will pick it up and they’re usually able to hold onto it for a few more hours. If not, I will send my backup.
It is realistic to expect it returned to you within 24-48 hours. I am probably faster than most. I have four dehydrators, so if I were to pick it up at 1am, I would be processing it by 1:30am and have the pills back to Mom by 6:30am.
I cut it very thin with a porcelain knife so that it dries evenly and it dries all at the same time. It needs to be crispy, dried all the way through so that when you grind it up, there is no moisture in the capsule. Every piece is tested and broken to make sure it is crispy all the way through. You grind it in a coffee grinder into a powder and it goes into the capsules.
Do you add herbs to the placenta when encapsulating?
Most of my moms now do the raw method where it is not steamed first. It dries in a different manner, not as condensed so it’s a fluffier consistency and makes more capsules.
I don’t put any herbs in the water any more because god forbid a mother has a reaction to the herbs or other additives and the placenta is ruined. In my opinion, keep it pure and she won’t have any reactions to it. And they can always take warming herbs on the side. I would rather keep it pure organ.
How many pills does the average placenta yield and how long will the pills last?
It really depends on diet and genetics. I’ve never seen less than 80 and the average (traditional method) yields about 120 to (raw method) 150. I recently handled a placenta from a mom who ate the purest, GMO-free diet and her placenta looked like a roast, perfectly round, thick and gorgeous and it yielded 250 capsules.
The shelf life is 2-3 years. Many moms triple bag them and freeze them to take when they stop breastfeeding or first get their periods back, two (emotional) times that hormones drop again. Just don’t take them when you’re pregnant – the hormones your body is producing in the beginning of pregnancy are very different than those produced at the end.
Are hospitals and doctors becoming more accommodating to Mothers requesting to keep their placenta?
At least in San Diego, things have really changed since I started doing it 7 years ago, when Dads used to have to sneak it out of the hospital. Now nurses are on board, they know how to handle it, put it on ice. They want it out of the hospital as soon as possible. It’s much simpler to get it than it used to be. It’s great.
How did you first start encapsulating?
One of my friends had psychosis with her first baby. For 10 months she couldn’t bond, she was super depressed. With her second baby she told me she was going to do this (placenta encapsulation), and I was super skeptical. But it was life changing – she was totally different, she made it through without medication, and bonded with her baby no problem.
Another Mom friend had a similar experience with her first baby so I begged her to do it with her second. I said I’d do it for free – just don’t let them throw the placenta away. And same thing, it was a totally different experience – “I can breathe now, I feel steady, I’m getting more sleep,” she said. And now she tells everyone about it.
It’s an amazing process to see what grew your baby. The term “tree of life” came from the placenta. The side that the baby rests its head on looks like a veiny tree, and is so smooth and beautiful. The cord that connects the baby to the “tree” is the tree of life, its what gave the baby life. It’s beautiful to see what the baby was resting its head on and how healthy that placenta was.
What are some things to look for in an encapsulation service?
You want to look for someone who has taken an actual physical training (not via youtube), has a food handling permit (OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration), has done Biologics Training (to learn about protecting your house and body against blood born pathogens), and uses universal precautions (gloves, aprons, eye masks, etc.)
Personally, I require blood work on all my moms. I want my moms to know that I care enough to make sure that no one has been infected by the blood born pathogens when I use the equipment.
Do you have any testimonials from Moms you’d like to share?
“I did not do the capsules with my first birth and struggled immensely with milk supply. It was very emotional; they forget to tell you how difficult breastfeeding can actually be. With my second I was determined to try everything. I had zero problems with supply for my second baby. Honestly, I think it had to do with the placenta. On days I would take an extra pill, I would get more milk and I never experienced post-partum depression either!” – MaryBeth Q.
“Placenta encapsulation helped my recovery postpartum due to the fact that it curbed my emotional ups and downs. I was skeptical at first. But at 2 weeks postpartum, after religiously taking my pills twice a day, I had forgotten to take my pills a couple of days in a row, thinking that I might not need them. In the middle of crying one day, my husband “suggested” very urgently that I take them, that possibly not taking my placenta pills was why I was crying and feeling so upset about this situation. I recommend placenta encapsulation to every person I know who is pregnant because I know this helped my recovery on an emotional level, which is sometimes the hardest part”. – Ashley S.
“I was admittedly hesitant about placenta encapsulation throughout my pregnancy–I thought it was super hippie dippie and a little weird–but my doula convinced me try it. “You only get one shot so you might as well have it and not use it than want it and not have it,” she said. I am so thankful she did. In the face of extenuating circumstances and family trauma at the time of my son’s delivery and early days, I felt completely out-of-wack and I was struggling. After a week or so, I opted to try the placenta pills. I immediately noticed a difference in my demeanor, mood, energy, and ability to get through the day without a meltdown. Taking the pills made me feel so much more balanced and able to connect with my newborn, despite everything going on around us, and that is priceless.” – Briana P.
Can you recommend any resources for anyone looking for more scientific studies or articles?
UNLV has a couple different studies done and that will probably be a little more balanced, but it’s hard to find many studies because drug companies don’t want to fund a study that will take away from their bottom line.
Some people say there’s no difference, it’s placebo effect and I say, so what, then it’s still working. Our minds are powerful, if we think it’s working, then it is.
I have never had a mom say that was a waste of time, money or effort. And I definitely have never from a partner. The partners are like “I can see such a huge difference when she takes the happy pills!”
Any last bits of advice?
I tell people: Even if you are undecided, take it home and freeze it. (Triple bag it first). Just in case you need it, you have it. Don’t let it be thrown away!
Comment below if there are any questions I left out – or what you think of the interview! Thank you for reading!