Placental encapsulation is gaining increasing interest from women as they consider their options for their placenta after birth. Essentially, when a woman births her placenta, there are three options available:
- Disposing of the placenta at the hospital or via their midwife if birthing at home
- Planting the placenta deep under the group, perhaps under a tree
- Consuming the placenta.
This third option is the most controversial, attracting much interest from women and health professionals alike. Why would you consume the placenta? And how would you consume it?
There are three ways to consume the placenta:
- Cut the placenta into very small tablet-sized chunks that can be frozen. Consume small chunks (frozen), or swallow small chunks of the placenta in its raw and non-frozen state.
- Cook the placenta in (eg) a stew or casserole
- Encapsulating the placenta
Of all the options for consuming the placenta, it is this third option – encapsulation – that attracts much attention.
Encapsulation means dehydrating the placenta, grinding it to a powder, and then placing that powder into capsules that can be consumed.
Consumption of the placenta is thought to have many benefits such as a reduction in the incidence of postnatal depression, minimisation of postnatal blood loss, regulation of hormones, boosting of iron levels, increased milk production and less fatigue postnatally.
Now, a small study has been done in Las Vegas that suggests that some of these benefits may be experienced by the majority of women who consume their placenta.
I remain slightly sceptical of the purported benefits because the cohort of women who are most likely to consume their placentas are also the cohort of women who are most likely to be motivated to have a positive birth and breastfeeding experience (therefore experiencing the purported benefits of placentophagy) and are also the cohort of women who are likely to be cared for by private midwives, and we know that women cared for in this way are highly unlikely to experience postnatal depression, breastfeeding issues and the types of birth interventions that lead to excessive blood loss after birth.
All of that said, placentophagy is not harmful, and may well contain the purported benefits. I think that the study results are very encouraging and would love to read a randomised controlled trial on placentophagy.