My Experience With Placenta Encapsulation

I think it’s fair to say that when most people hear about a woman consuming her placenta their gag reflex kicks in. At the very least, most people find it incredibly strange and wonder why anyone would consider doing something so downright “icky”. But I also think it’s fair to say women who’ve had a difficult postpartum recovery are the first to understand the desperate desire to escape a repeat of those struggles at just about any cost.

When I first decided to keep my placenta for postpartum consumption I swore I would keep it a secret for fear of judgment. But, the results have been so amazing for me that I wanted to share my story in the hopes that maybe other women could enjoy the same benefits.

My postpartum recovery after my first child was a rough time for me. My hormones were a horrible roller coaster for months, I struggled constantly with breastfeeding and a low supply, and physically it seemed to take forever for my body to recover and function properly again. As we headed into my second pregnancy, my husband and I both feared going through this aftermath again.

Now that I knew just how hard it could really be, I was determined to do everything possible to improve my chances of having a better recovery after the birth. One of the biggest factors I worked towards was ensuring this birth would be a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean). In my research I also discovered other options women have been exploring to make the postpartum recovery less stressful on their bodies. One that stuck out to me was placenta encapsulation.

Placenta encapsulation is a process where the placenta is put into pill form for the mother to take orally each day postpartum. It is believed that this practice can help a woman’s hormones stay more balanced, help her body heal more efficiently, give her energy, and help with her milk production. The research studies that have been done on this are scarce and small. You can find a nice compilation of excerpts from research studies done on the topic here.

Since there’s no big money to be made, no one is jumping to make the large investment it would take for a substantial study to be done. This has left the medical community as a whole very skeptical about the effectiveness of consuming the placenta for postpartum benefits. Most of the “evidence” you will find is largely anecdotal, women telling stories about how they feel it worked for them. I knew going into this there was a possibility this wouldn’t do much but I was willing to try anything that might give me a chance at avoiding the hormonal nightmare I’d gone through after my first child was born.

There are different methods for consuming the placenta. I chose to do the “traditional Chinese method”. This is a process many thousands of years old that involves first rinsing and cleaning the placenta of blood, then steaming it thoroughly with certain herbs such as lemon and ginger. When it is fully “cooked” the placenta is cut into strips and dehydrated fully. The cooked, dried tissue is then pulverized into a powder, and finally put into capsules for consumption.

I started my search for someone to perform this service for me by asking my doula and midwife for recommendations. It’s important to find someone you can trust who is certified to handle something like this. The cost generally ranges from about $200-$300 but will vary depending on where you live and what services they provide with the pills.

The entire process was quite easy for me. I let my midwife and birth team know ahead of time that I planned on keeping the placenta for encapsulation and made sure it was clearly listed in my birth plan. I had to sign a few papers at the hospital saying that I was taking it. After I birthed my placenta, my midwife placed it directly into a container and had it clearly marked for keeping. Then it was sent to the hospital lab refrigerator. I contacted the woman who would be encapsulating it for me as soon as possible after we got settled into our room after the delivery. She came to the hospital with a a cooler of ice packs and my husband escorted her to the lab so the placenta could be released. She put it on ice and took it away. Twenty-four hours later she returned with my bottle of pills.

Directions for taking the pills varies according to who you talk to. This is yet another problem with gauging the effectiveness, there are no real set guidelines. I started out with one pill twice a day then built up to two pills in the morning and one in the afternoon. I was warned not to take the pills too late at night because the energy they give you can cause you to lose sleep. There were a couple times I forgot my afternoon pill and did end up taking one bit too late. On those nights I was wide awake for most of the night as if I’d had a large cup of coffee!

My entire postpartum recovery this time has been incredibly wonderful! It’s been the opposite of everything my first recovery was. I haven’t had any mood swings or crying, my hormones have felt balanced and normal. I’ve had so much energy everyday. People keep commenting on how active and happy I seem to be. Physically, I’ve felt like I’ve bounced right back in so many ways. Everything has healed up beautifully. My milk production has been perfect. After the stress of having my first baby lose so much weight no matter what I did for breastfeeding, I was brought to tears when this baby was almost back to birth weight just four days after birth and with what felt like no effort on my part whatsoever. It’s just been easier and smoother in every possible way this time around.

In all fairness I have to mention that I do have many factors in this pregnancy and birth that were different from my first and have likely added to the improvement. So I can’t say with absolute certainty that this is ALL due to the placenta pills alone. I’d stayed much more active and healthy in this pregnancy in preparation for my VBAC. I had a normal, vaginal birth this time instead of a scheduled c-section. This meant my body got to go through the normal hormonal process of labor and birth and also I wasn’t recovering from major abdominal surgery postpartum. Simply being a second-time mom can make so much of this less stressful and feel easier. And this time we have a support team of loving friends around us who have been helpful in so many ways. When my first was born we were very isolated with no help at all.

But even with all those factors contributing to improving things I do feel taking the placenta pills has been an excellent addition to my postpartum care and has made a huge difference. I say this because I notice the difference when I forget to take them and I notice the boost I get when I do take them.

There is no one thing that works the same for every woman, each body is so unique. And many women recover after birth just fine without needing any sort of help. But I’m very happy that I decided to try this and I wish I’d had it for my first birth.

I’m not a medical professional and I do not give any sort of medical advice, but I am sharing my story and adding it to the pile of anecdotal evidence for women to decide for themselves if they think placenta encapsulation might be worth a try for them. At the very least I’d like to see this practice become a part of the discussion so more women are aware it’s an option and less people make incorrect assumptions about it. Placenta encapsulation is not a recent trend made up just for “crunchy” types trying to be earthy. I believe it really can be a wonderful benefit to the physical and mental well being of postpartum women. I know it has been for me.

One Response to My Experience With Placenta Encapsulation

  1. This is something I really wish I’d done! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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