Monday, December 3, 2012

the ins and outs of placenta encapsulation

with every part of robin's birth planned out to be as natural as possible, placenta encapsulation was something that i considered immediately. i am not sure where i heard of it first, but as soon as someone mentioned a huge part of its benefits being better mood control i was on board.

after i had stella, i struggled emotionally - i word it like that because it wasn't postpartum depression per say  just a major shift in my hormones, sometime during the first week, where i was literally left feeling not myself. it was a terrible feeling and was hard for those around me to know how to help or deal with it themselves. thankfully, it was very short lived but still happened. when robin's birth neared and i brought up encapsulating my placenta to tim, all i had to do was mention the hormone benefits and he was on board.

i know, your already thinking, "you did what with your what what?" it isn't like it sounds, hear me out - humans are one of the only primates that doesn't ingest their placenta and all known land mammals do as well. it is rich with vitamins and nutrients that help balance hormones and fight the baby blues as well as improve your sleep and energy (amen!). then there are the breastfeeding benefits - after your deliver your placenta, there is a huge shift in the hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin that are very helpful and important in breastfeeding and there is a huge store of these in the placenta.

if you didn't know any better, that it was an encapsulated placenta, you would as easily just assume it was another one of your daily multi-vitamins. if this is something you have considered at all, please make the decision your own, don't let others convince you it is "gross" because there are far more gross things that we continually put into our bodies and aren't even saving ourselves from hormonal imbalances.

i am four weeks postpartum now and i can say that i feel one hundred percent different then i ever have postpartum before. i feel healthy, more balanced physically and emotionally, breastfeeding is going amazing, and my energy has been through the roof. of course a lot of factors played into my recovery and i will talk about all of that in the future, but in the meantime i highly recommend looking into if this is something for you!

to give you a more professional peek into placenta encapsulation, i asked megan, a doula with the north sound birth collective (which my doula is a part of as well), to chime in on the ins and outs of the benefits and process. she is who encapsulated mine as part of choosing to use the services and a doula from the north sound birth collective. i tried to ask questions that would cover it all, but if i missed anything feel free to ask!

q: why is placenta encapsulation beneficial? 
a: The nutrients from the placenta help support the postpartum mom in her healing process in many ways. Benefits can include mood support, regulation of postpartum hormone swings, increased milk supply, increased energy. Women with a history of postpartum mood disorders and breastfeeding struggles are often the most drawn to placenta encapsulation.

q: when and why would a new mother choose to have it done? 
a: Ideally, women begin taking their placenta pills within a few days after birth. The preparation process takes a full day or two depending on the method. It's helpful to have arrangements made before your birth for encapsulation so the process can go as quickly as possible. The reasons women decide to encapsulate are diverse, but the most common are to proactively approach struggles with postpartum mood and to support healthy breastfeeding.

q: i have heard it can be hugely helpful when it comes to dealing with changing hormones and emotions (PPD) after birth? 
a: Yes. The placenta is rich in hormones that tend to crash a few days after birth, so the placenta pills can help regulate that immediate hormonal shift. Long term, while we don't know exactly how it works, we know that placenta medicine is one effective tool in dealing with postpartum mood disorders. There are several studies being done currently, including one in Seattle, exploring these benefits.

q: is it totally safe? 
a: Talk with your encapsulator about their process for preparing your placenta. They should follow good hygiene practices for your safety.

q: how does it work? 
a: Your placenta pills are rich in your own hormones and iron. Taking the pills gently supports the body as it recovers from pregnancy and birth.

q: why does it work? 
a: During pregnancy, the placenta takes over the production several important hormones. At delivery, the source of those hormones is removed. It takes the body quite a while to resume normal production of those hormones- it's most noticeable at 4-5 days postpartum when most women have an emotional "crash" caused by hormones levels shifting dramatically. Your placenta pills are small doses of those hormones both for immediate support, as well as to remind your body to take over the process of non-pregnant function.

q: how is it done? 
a: There are a few methods of preparation. Mine involves steaming the placenta with healing herbs, 8-12 hours of gentle dehydration, then grinding the dried placenta into powder which is placed in pills.

q: can everyone have it done? or are there cases where a person or placenta wouldn't be a good candidate for encapsulation? 
a: In the case of a uterine infection, it's not a good idea to ingest the placenta.

q: can anyone do it themselves? or should they seek someone who does it professionally? 
a:Yes, you could prepare your own placenta. However, the process can be complicated if you do not have the correct supplies. It puts a big burden on your recovering body to be up out of bed and preparing your pills. Some women ask their partner or another family member to prepare the pills for them. A professional encapsulator has dedicated supplies, a streamlined process, and takes the time consuming task off your plate at a time that is already overwhelming (at best).

q: how to you find anyone/the right person to encapsulate it for you? 
a: Many doulas do placenta encapsulation as part of their services. If they do not, they will most likely know someone who does. If you are in the Seattle area, I'd be happy to talk with anyone about the services ( Outside this area, a good old fashioned internet search of "placenta encapsulation+your city" is a good start. Be sure to ask questions about their process and training to find someone that is a good fit for you.

q: on average, what does it cost? 
a: Average cost in the Seattle area is $125-200 depending on the type of encapsulation, level of experience and your location.

so, what do you think?