Placenta encapsulation is becoming more and more popular these days and is popping up in mainstream media as well as on social networks. Placenta encapsulation is a modern approach to a very ancient tradition of nourishing and healing the mother after birth. So, you may be wondering, what is it? And why would anyone want to do it? And isn’t it gross?! I’ll answer all these questions and more as I demystify this incredible practice.
What in the world is it?!
Let’s start with a little ‘Placenta: 101’. The word ‘placenta’ comes from the Latin word 'cake', as it is shaped like a disc or a cake. The placenta is formed from the same sperm and egg cells that form the baby. Its main function is to supply baby with everything she needs during gestation. The placenta interacts with the baby through the umbilical cord, which provides baby with a rich source of oxygen and nourishment, and facilitates waste removal from the baby. The placenta also produces hormones necessary to sustain pregnancy and healthy fetal development. The placenta is a unique organ--it's the only organ designed to be naturally expelled by the body. Placentas are never the same; they are as unique as fingerprints, each one looking completely different--even in twin births!
How does it work?
The placenta has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). During the work of labor and childbirth, women lose a lot of Qi and blood, which causes deficiencies in the body. The TCM treatment for the postpartum woman is to warm the body, tonify the Qi, and build the blood. A powerful tool that TCM suggests for this is placenta encapsulation, which helps to reharmonize the overall Qi of the body, builds the blood, and nourishes the yin. Using this incredible protocol in the postpartum period helps to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship, nurtures emotional wellbeing, heals physical trauma related to the birth.
What does consuming the placenta postpartum do, in Western terms? The hormones and nutrients contained in the placenta can help to prevent or reduce symptoms of postpartum ‘baby blues’, help to replenish the body’s iron stores from birth related blood loss (which can prevent postpartum anemia), help stabilize ever-changing post-birth hormones, restore B vitamins and energy, lessen postpartum bleeding and can help to establish a healthy milk supply. For many mothers in the sleepless haze of the first few weeks postpartum, these benefits can be a miracle!
How can the placenta be used? Is it gross?
In some traditions, the placenta is consumed fresh, or cooked in with other foods. In our modern society, utilizing the placenta after birth is easier, more convenient, and lacks the ‘yuck factor’ by using methods such as encapsulation. Immediately after the birth, the mother’s placenta is carefully bagged and kept cool during transport. In a sanitary and OSHA standard workspace, the placenta is then cleaned and prepared for dehydration. During preparation, the placenta can be infused with warming Chinese herbs to enhance its healing properties. Once it has been thoroughly dehydrated, it is then ground into a fine powder and placed into gelatin or vegetarian capsules for the mother to take in the weeks following her birth as a simple but powerful supplement to speed healing and nourish her body.
In addition to encapsulation, a small part of the placenta can be made into a shelf-stable, long-lasting tincture that can be used for the hormonal fluctuations in the postpartum phase as well as the return of her menses, and even during menopause! Using just a few placenta capsules, a salve can be prepared, which can be used in a variety of ways for healing and nourishing the mother's and baby's skin (including healing cesarean section incisions and diaper rash).
In the quest for the healthiest pregnancy and perfect birth experience, often times the crucial postpartum healing period is forgotten about. I am passionate about educating women and helping them to achieve vibrant health after birth.
I offer placenta encapsulation for birthing women at Triangle Acupuncture Clinic, in the Triad, Triangle and surrounding areas. For more information, go to www.CreationTherapeutics.com.