What if you could avoid the baby blues...
The placenta contains your own natural hormones and is perfectly made for you, by you. Experts agree that the placenta retains hormones. Reintroducing them to your system is believed to ease postpartum and menopausal hormonal fluctuations.
Why should I take placenta capsules?
Your baby's placenta, in capsule form, is believed to:
*contain your own natural hormones
*be perfectly made for you
*balance your system
*replenish depleted iron
*give you more energy
*lessen bleeding postnatally
*been shown to increase milk production
*help you have a happier postpartum period
*hasten return of uterus to pre-pregnancy state
*be helpful during menopause
In progress: Placenta versus Placebo research
The UNLV Placentophagy Research Team is currently in the data analysis phase of the highly anticipated & long-awaited double-blind, controlled research study examining various differences among postpartum women who ingest placenta capsules (prepared according to the "PBi method" of placenta encapsulation) versus a placebo. We are expecting publication sometime in 2016.
Survey of Mother's Experiences with Placenta Consumption
Selander, Jodi, et al. "Human maternal placentophagy: A survey of self-reported motivations & experiences associated with placenta consumption." Ecology of food and nutrition 52.2 (2013): 93-115.
Maternal placentophagy, although widespread among mammals, is conspicuously absent among humans cross-culturally. Recently, however, advocates for the practice have claimed it provides human postpartum benefits. Despite increasing awareness about placentophagy, no systematic research has investigated the motivations or perceived effects of practitioners. We surveyed 189 females who had ingested their placenta & found the majority of these women reported perceived positive benefits & indicated they would engage in placentophagy again after subsequent births. Further research is necessary to determine if the described benefits extend beyond those of placebo effects, or are skewed by the nature of the studied sample.
Interesting findings from the study: 95% of participants had a "positive" or "very positive" experience with placentophagy, & ALL but two of the participants said they would use placenta again after a subsequent pregnancy.
The effect of the maternal ingestion of desiccated placenta upon the rate of growth of breast-fed infants
Hammett, F. S. (1918). Journal of Biological Chemistry, 36(3), 569-573.
"The effect of the ingestion of the dsiccated placenta by the mothers on the rate of growth of the breast-feeding infants is at once apparent. [...] the mean increase over the normal percent change in weight on the 13th day being over 60 percent."
Placenta as Lactagagon
Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.
An attempt was made to increase milk secretion in mothers by administration of dried placenta per os. Of 210 controlled cases only 29 (13.8%) gave negative results; 181 women (86.2%) reacted positively to the treatment, 117 (55.7%) with good and 64 (30.5%) with very good results. It could be shown by similar experiments with a beef preparation that the effective substance in placenta is not protein. Nor does the lyofilised placenta act as a biogenic stimulator so that the good results of placenta administration cannot be explained as a form of tissue therapy per os. The question of a hormonal influence remains open. So far it could be shown that progesterone is probably not active in increasing lactation after administration of dried placenta.
This method of treating hypogalactia seems worth noting since the placenta preparation is easily obtained, has not so far been utilized and in our experience is successful in the majority of women.
Placentophagia: A Biobehavioral Enigma
KRISTAL, M. B. NEUROSCI. BIOBEHAV. REV. 4(2) 141-150, 1980.
Although ingestion of the afterbirth during delivery is a reliable component of parturitional behavior of mothers in most mammalian species, we know almost nothing of the direct causes or consequences of the act. Traditional explanations of placentophagia, such as general or specific hunger, are discussed and evaluated in light of recent experimental results. Next, research is reviewed which has attempted to distinguish between placentophagia as a maternal behavior & placentophagia as an ingestive behavior. Finally, consequences of the behavior, which may also be viewed as ultimate causes in an evolutionary sense, are considered, such as the possibility of beneficial effects on maternal behavior or reproductive competence, on protection against predators, and on immunological protection afforded either the mother or the young.
Placenta for Pain Relief:
Placenta ingestion by rats enhances y- and n-opioid antinociception, but suppresses A-opioid antinociception
Jean M. DiPirro*, Mark B. Kristal
Ingestion of placenta or amniotic fluid produces a dramatic enhancement of centrally mediated opioid antinociception in the rat. The present experiments investigated the role of each opioid receptor type (A, y, n) in the antinociception-modulating effects of Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF—presumably the active substance). Antinociception was measured on a 52 jC hotplate in adult, female rats after they ingested placenta or control substance (1.0 g) & after they received an intracerebroventricular injection of a y-specific ([D-Pen2,D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE); 0, 30, 50, 62, or 70 nmol), A-specific ([D-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin (DAMGO); 0, 0.21, 0.29, or 0.39 nmol), or n-specific (U-62066; spiradoline; 0, 100, 150, or 200 nmol) opioid receptor agonist. The results showed that ingestion of placenta potentiated y- and n-opioid antinociception, but attenuated A-opioid antinociception. This finding of POEF action as both opioid receptor-specific and complex provides an important basis for understanding the intrinsic pain-suppression mechanisms that are activated during parturition & modified by placentophagia, and important information for the possible use of POEF as an adjunct to opioids in pain management.
D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin & progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation.
Blank MS, Friesen HG.: J Reprod Fertil. 1980 Nov;60(2):273-8.
In rats that were allowed to eat the placentae after parturition concentrations of serum prolactin were elevated on Day 1 but concentrations of serum progesterone were depressed on Days 6 and 8 post partum when compared to those of rats prevented from eating the placentae. In rats treated with PMSG to induce superovulation serum prolactin & progesterone values were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated on Days 3 & 5 respectively, after being fed 2 g rat placenta/day for 2 days. However, feeding each rat 4 g placenta/day
significantly (P < 0.02) lowered serum progesterone on Day 5. Oestrogen injections or bovine or human placenta in the diet had no effect. The organic phase of a petroleum ether extract of rat placenta (2 g-equivalents/day) lowered peripheral concentrations of progesterone on Day 5, but other extracts were ineffective. We conclude that the rat placenta contains orally-active substance(s) which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones.
Care of Placentas
The Care and Keeping of Placentas
by Jodi Selander
The placenta is not generally a topic of discussion during the course of a pregnancy, unless it is not doing its job properly or is not in the best position for safe birthing. If the placenta is functioning as it should, little thought or consideration is given to it.
The placenta is a key player in the generation of new life. Each one is as individual and unique as the baby itself. Every baby needs a strong, healthy placenta in order to have the best chance at surviving the pregnancy & birth. Considering the important role the placenta plays, it is surprising that it remains a mystery to the vast majority of people. In a discussion with one first-time mother, she expressed her confusion at the fact that she did not feel the baby pulling on her belly when it moved around in her uterus; she thought the umbilical cord was connected to the back of her belly button. Most expectant parents don't know what a placenta even looks like. Some women don't realize that they actually need to birth the placenta the same way that they birth their baby.
Standard Handling of Placentas
With so much confusion and a lack of basic knowledge, in the US the placenta is treated indifferently or even fearfully. When a placenta is born in a hospital, the obstetrician will examine it to make sure that none of it has been retained. Sometimes a mother is injured when the obstetrician tries to rush the natural birthing process by pulling on the umbilical cord, which can cause the placenta to tear from the womb before it is ready. This can cause unnecessary trauma to the mother & has not been shown to have any benefit whatsoever.
Hospitals treat placentas as medical waste or biohazard material. The newborn placenta is placed in a biohazard bag for storage. Some hospitals keep the placenta for a period of time in case the need arises to send it to pathology for further analysis. Once the hospital is done with the placenta, it is put on a truck with all the other placentas and medical waste accumulated at the hospital that week for "proper disposal." If it is sent to the pathology department, it will be analyzed using chemical treatment & dissection.
In other hospitals, placentas are incinerated onsite. One might think that each placenta is incinerated individually, but the truth is very different. According to a charge nurse at a major hospital, all of the placentas are tossed into a large bin together. The contents of this bin are then dumped into the incinerator about once a week or "when it starts to leak or smell."
Even in the most beautiful of homebirth settings, the placenta often doesn't enjoy a much better fate. Though it is usually born at its own pace, it often isn't cared for afterward. After the midwife thoroughly examines it, the mother is sometimes asked if she'd like to keep it. If she hasn't considered the question before that moment, she won't have made prior arrangements. The placenta is then discarded, along with the other waste products from the birth.
Honoring the Placenta
In some situations the placenta is given proper consideration and reverence. One ritual that allows the baby and the placenta to separate naturally, without cutting the umbilical cord, is called "Lotus Birth." Because the baby and placenta have been joined together since conception, they are believed to share a special connection & bond. Lotus Birth honors this bond by allowing it to come to its natural conclusion. Lotus Birth enables a more gentle transition from womb to world for the baby.
Many cultures also honor the placenta via ceremonial burial rituals involving trees. The fetal side of the placenta forms an amazing image of the Tree of Life — an ancient symbol that appears in numerous religions & belief systems around the world. Many people of the world honor this sacred connection to new life by burying the placenta under a sacred tree. As the tree grows, it represents the abundance of life brought forth by the placenta in the form of the child.
Use of Placenta for Postpartum Recovery
There is also a growing trend of using the placenta to facilitate the woman's postpartum recovery through ingestion of the placenta, known as placentophagy. The placenta is incredibly nutritious and contains many of the vitamins, minerals & hormones that a mother's body needs to adequately recover from the pregnancy and birth. Women who take part in this practice feel that they have a faster recovery from the pregnancy & birth, have more energy & increased milk production, & often do not experience any postnatal mood instability such as the "baby blues," or postpartum depression.
If a woman wants to use the placenta for her postpartum recovery, special consideration must be given to its care after the birth. From the time it's born the placenta must be handled as though it were food, because that is what it will soon become. Just as you would not leave a steak out on the counter for several hours, the placenta should not be left sitting out. It should go straight into a food-grade container — not on the floor or on chux pads or towels. If the mother doesn't have a special bowl set aside to receive it, it can be double-bagged in gallon-sized ziplock bags — anything that can be sealed to protect the placenta from the air. It should be refrigerated as soon as possible for maximum freshness. The preparation of the placenta, in whatever form the mother will be consuming it, should begin within the first 24 hours after birth.
Some mothers choose a Lotus Birth. If a mother chooses this option, then the placenta will not be suitable for encapsulation or ingestion afterward. A nice compromise would be to allow the placenta to remain attached to the baby for a period of time — up to four hours — but severed from the umbilical cord & refrigerated after that point. Delaying the separation allows a gentle transition to the world for the baby & still allows the mother to make further use of the placenta.
The placenta can be consumed in a variety of ways, ranging from raw to incorporating it into the family's favorite lasagna recipe. Placenta encapsulation - whereby the placenta is completely dried, ground & placed into empty capsules - offers a number of advantages over other modes of ingestion. The main one is that the dehydration process preserves the placenta, allowing the mother to benefit from it for weeks instead of just the first few days postpartum. The capsules can also be frozen, extending their use from weeks & months to years. Beyond the postpartum period, the capsules are beneficial for any stressful transition. Having to leave the baby to go back to work, a job loss in the family, or a move can cause stress that can be helped with placenta capsules. Since the capsules also help with fatigue & milk production, they can be taken any time the mother feels worn down or needs to increase her milk supply.
Additionally, acupuncturists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) use placenta to help balance a woman's hormones during menopause, so imagine the benefit of having access to her own natural hormones in levels that are already perfectly suited to her system.
Finally, capsules are much more palatable than raw placenta to the majority of women, making the use of placenta for postpartum recovery an option for women who may never have considered it otherwise. Placenta encapsulation & ingestion can open the doors of possibilities for more women and can be a key factor in helping eliminate the epidemic of the "baby blues" that we have come to accept in our Western society.
Placentas are amazing organs. They foster life in the womb from the time they are formed, but their role & influence does not cease at birth. Instead, they are perfectly created to nourish the mother & help her recover more quickly from the birth & pregnancy itself. By allowing her system to gradually balance itself, placenta capsules ease the transition to motherhood for many women.
If a woman is at her optimum in health & well-being, then she is unquestionably able to mother her baby & nurture her family at a higher level. No mother can perform at her peak when her system is depleted & she is exhausted. The placenta, grown in her womb & symbiotically integrated into her system, can replenish & revitalize her, giving her the energy & resources she needs for the most important endurance challenge of her lifetime: motherhood.
This is a preprint of an article accepted for publication in Midwifery Today, Copyright © 2009 Midwifery Today, Inc.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the optimal timeline for encapsulation?
Birth - 3 hours3 hours - 48 hours
You can prepare the placenta fresh. It will hold the most benefits at this point. You can prepare the placenta fresh, as long as it's beenrefrigerated.
If placenta can not be prepared within first 48 hours
48 hours - 2 weeks2 weeks - 4 weeksAfter a month
Double-bag placenta & freeze within first 24 hours of the birth. Thaw in the refrigerator (about 24 hours) prior to encapsulation. Placenta may still be encapsulated, however the longer it's in the freezer the less effective it may be to the mother.The placenta may be at risk for freezer burn & the longer its stored in the freezer, the less benefit it has to the mother.
2. What is Lotus Birth? Can I encapsulate & have a gentle separation too? I 'm planning a lotus birth & putting the attached placenta in a soft-sided cooler on bagged ice. The cooler has a zipper that would be closed around the cord... might it be acceptable?
A lotus birth is when the placenta is left attached to the baby until it detaches on its own, generally after several days. In lotus birth, it is common to salt or otherwise help the placenta dry out more quickly. While traditional lotus birth is a beautiful ceremony honoring the connection between placenta & baby, it renders the placenta unsuitable for consumption.
If lotus birth is important to you, a modified version could be performed while still encapsulating the placenta.
a) The placenta could stay connected to the baby for up to three or four hours. This would give the baby a gentle transition to the world, & the placenta would still be fit for consumption after this amount of time. Do not exceed four hours before separating the placenta & refrigerating it.
b) Another option at four hours postpartum is to sever the portion of placenta that you desire to encapsulate, & place it into the refrigerater. The remainder of the placenta can stay intact, along with the cord to baby until it falls off naturally. This allows a modified version of both lotus & encapsulation while understanding you are not receiving either in full - resulting in fewer capsules, no cord keepsake, & some will be severed (not full lotus.)Remember that we need to start the process within the first 24 hours (ideally) to 48 hours of the birth. We do this because the hormones within the placenta will begin to metabolize & change.
If the placenta is encapsulated after 4-5 days, has been kept cool & does not spoil, the capsules will not be as potent from a hormonal standpoint. While the iron & other nutrients take longer to break down, choosing a more optimal lotus birth could result in potentially less effective placenta capsules. Lotus also tends to involve salting of the placenta. Adding that much sodium into the capsules is not going to be good for a system & is a step that would be better skipped.
The modified options above (a, b) offer a lotus-type gentle birth while also having the full benefit from the placenta capsules, & those are what PBi believes to be best.
3. Which is better, consuming the placenta Raw or using the Traditional Chinese Medicine method?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cooling foods are best in the first 48 hours postpartum. Raw foods, thus raw placenta, are used to help calm the hormonal rush & blood flow down. After the first 48 hours, warming foods are most beneficial. Cooked or steamed foods (prepared and/or encapsulated placenta) are used to help rebuild blood, chi, & slowly increase the body's endocrine functions.
Encapsulating the prepared placenta allows for longer term of ingestion, possibly providing a longer time of benefits.
If you would like to consume the placenta immediately after the birth, cut off a one-inch square piece & place inside the cheek or under the tongue for as long as possible. It may then be discarded, or swallowed according to your preference. This is the fastest way to incorporate the hormonal benefits of placenta.
4. Are there special considerations when making a placenta smoothie?
Adding prepared placenta for smoothies 48 hours postpartum is a viable option. If you want to consume the placenta immediately after the birth in smoothie form, place a decent-sized chunk of fresh placenta (2" x 3", depending on thickness) into a blender with your other ingredients, & blend together. Using bright red fruits such as strawberries is recommended if you are feeling sensitive to the sight of placenta in your smoothie; the strawberries or red fruits will mask it. Many women have felt an infusion of energy & vitality when consuming their placenta immediately after the birth, & a fruit smoothie can be a refreshing way to consume it.
5. The placenta is a filter, so does it store the toxins it filters, & the mother ends up ingesting them too when she uses the capsules?
The placenta is a part of an advanced filtering system. Nutrients from the mother get passed to the baby via the placenta, which tries to filter out anything harmful to the baby before letting it get through. The baby passes waste back to the mother through the placenta, which the mother's body can then remove, just as her body removes all the other waste products in her system. The placenta is not a filter that traps everything that can't get through, like an air filter. Those waste products & other things that the baby can't use are generally sent back out to the mother for removal. If the placenta held onto everything, it would be a health hazard after nine months! So, no, the placenta is not filled with toxins by the time the baby is born. That being said, there are some things that do get held by the placenta, such as heavy metals. So if a mother smokes, the heavy metals in the cigarette smoke will build up in the placenta over time, making it questionable whether or not it should be ingested.
6. I will be receiving antibiotics for GBS during labor. Do you know if this will cross into the placenta and thus create a problem for encapsulation?
The amount of antibiotics that cross the placenta is unknown; although, many mothers encapsulate their placentas following antibiotics during labor without a problem.
7. What hormones are in the placenta? Which are the most prominent ones & what are their role in the postpartum recovery in placenta encapsulation?
There are many hormones that the placenta creates or regulates during pregnancy. Many of those hormones are still contained within the placental tissue after the birth. Since each woman & each pregnancy is different, we can not tell definitively which ones are present or at what levels in a particular placenta. Placenta encapsulation is beneficial for precisely those reasons - each placenta is created uniquely by that woman, for that woman.
The concept of which hormones are at play in the development of postnatal mood disorders is still under investigation and research. But more & more research is pointing to a biological, hormonal component. We don't know which ones in the placenta could impact the various benefits that women report; all we do know is that most women who take placenta capsules do report an improved mood.
For more information on our latest published research on mother's experiences with placentophagy, please view our paper online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03670244.2012.719356#.VMEwVy6Ibcs
8. What medications during pregnancy or labor make it unsafe to encapsulate? Is there any research done on this to support that?
As a PBi Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, we do not make any recommendations on which placenta is suitable for encapsulation. We leave all decisions as to the viability of the placenta up to the care providers. If the mother & the provider deem the placenta heathy at birth, & would like to have it prepared in capsule form, we can provide that service for her.
9. Are their any illnesses that are known of that would make it unsafe to encapsulate?
Again, we leave that up to the mother & the care provider. The only true contraindication for placentophagy would be a uterine infection that affected the placenta (as in, there is or could potentially be an infection in the placental tissue). All other situations would have to be considered by the care provider.
10. If a patient were to be RH- and her baby RH+, is it safe to encapsulate?
It is still safe to encapsulate. Once the placenta is born, it is no longer connected to the mother's bloodstream, which is where the danger lies. The placenta is prepared & then ingested, meaning the pathway is via her digestive system, not her circulatory system. Consider that we frequently eat the meat of animals after it is prepared.
11. Is there a recommended dose?
At PBi, we use size "00" capsules. These capsules contain approximately 550 mg of dried placenta each. Since placenta is highly individualized, & should only be taken as needed, we do not offer dosing recommendations. However, based on that information, & the information for the recommended dosing guidelines of Zî hé che in Traditional Chinese Medicine, a general guideline would be two capsules up to three times per day for two weeks.