Happy Pills? Could Placenta Encapsulation be Right for You?

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You may have heard friends rave about how placenta encapsulation improved their postpartum experience and recovery, or read of celebrities who swear by the practice (like January Jones crediting consuming her placenta as helping her get back on set of Mad Men within 6 weeks).  Wondering if encapsulation could be for you?  Read on:

The Facts:

  • Placenta encapsulation is the practice of ingesting the placenta after it has been steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into pills.
  • Reported benefits of consuming placenta capsules in the postpartum period include improved mood, energy and lactation.
  • The few scientific studies done on placenta encapsulation have been limited in sample size, and have not conclusively supported or dispelled these reported benefits; however, there is a wealth of positive anecdotal evidence supporting the practice.
  • 76% of participants in a survey conducted by UNLV and published in the journal Ecology, Food and Nutrition reported very positive experiences with their placenta capsules (Ecol Food Nutr. 2013;52(2):93-115.)
  • A randomized controlled trial at UNLV, published in Nov. 2017 in the journal Women and Birth found detectable changes in the hormone levels of mothers taking placenta capsules -- changes which were proportional to the concentrations of the same hormones in each participant's placenta capsules (a dose-response relationship) that was not observed in the placebo group. 

About the Process:

  • Following your birth, simply let your care providers know that you would like to keep your placenta. If you are having a hospital birth, the nurses are usually happy to provide an ice cream type pail and ice to keep it cool until your encapsulation specialist can come pick it up.
  • The placenta is then steamed with lemon and ginger, dehydrated, and ground into a fine powder.  The powder is then placed into 100% preservative free, 100% vegetable cellulose vegan capsules for consumption.  The capsules look like herbal supplements when finished- similar to echinacea capsules.
  • It is recommended that you begin taking your capsules after your milk comes in (3-4 days postpartum usually) if you are planning to breastfeed. The reason for this is to ensure that the hormones do not interfere with your body's initial lactogenesis or milk production.

Though the idea of consuming the placenta may seem odd at first, many things seem odd until we know more about them.  Whether placenta capsules are truly effective or simply set off a placebo effect that helps women feel better during their postpartum period, without more research we can't know for sure.  But with all the stories I've heard from mothers, combined with the things I've read about the analgesic effects in animal models, and the natural hormones in the placenta being shown to withstand the dehydration process-I think it stands to reason that there really might be something to these so called "happy pills."

Disclaimer:  The content found on this blog is meant only to provide general information and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you.  Serving Madison, WI and the surrounding areas.  Looking for doula support or lactation counseling in Madison?  Contact me here.