Today I want to talk to you about my experience of placenta encapsulation following the birth of my second child. I didn’t encapsulate my placenta with my first child but did for my second so I feel I can compare and contrast my experiences to some extent. I will talk about the benefits of placenta encapsulation, placenta pills pros and cons and the side effects of placenta pills.
What is placenta encapsulation?
Placenta encapsulation is the process of drying, grinding, and encapsulating the placenta after childbirth to create placenta capsules that can be consumed by the mother.
Placenta pills pros and cons
Prior to encapsulating my placenta, I had read a lot about women’s anecdotal experiences of placenta encapsulation for a while and how great it had made them feel.
Benefits placenta encapsulation
Some of the most cited benefits of placenta encapsulation include hormonal balance, increased energy levels, enhanced mood and reduced postpartum depression, nutrient replenishment and increased milk supply:
- Hormonal balance: It is believed that consuming the placenta may help balance hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone, which can fluctuate significantly after childbirth. However, there is a lack of rigorous scientific studies demonstrating this effect.
- Increased energy levels: Some proponents claim that consuming the placenta may boost energy levels and reduce postpartum fatigue. However, this claim also lacks scientific evidence.
- Enhanced mood and reduced postpartum depression: One of the most commonly cited benefits of placenta encapsulation is its potential to alleviate postpartum depression and improve mood. While some small studies and surveys have reported positive outcomes, larger, controlled studies are needed to establish a clear link.
- Nutrient replenishment: The placenta is rich in various nutrients, including iron, vitamin B12, and certain hormones. Advocates argue that consuming the encapsulated placenta can replenish these nutrients, potentially aiding postpartum recovery. However, scientific evidence on the bioavailability and effectiveness of these nutrients in placenta capsules is limited.
- Increased milk supply: Some women believe that consuming the placenta can boost lactation and increase breast milk production. However, research in this area is scarce and inconclusive.
Why I encapsulated my placenta
I knew that there wasn’t much in the way of peer-reviewed research proving its benefits but this is often the case with ‘women’s rituals’ and experiences.
In the end I thought I was unlikely to regret trying it but quite likely to regret not doing it and decided to go ahead if I had a natural drug free birth with a physiological third stage (which I did).
You can read about my home birth story here.
Placenta pills – cons
It’s important to note that the safety of placenta encapsulation has also been a subject of debate. The process involves handling and processing the placenta, which can introduce the risk of contamination or infection if not done properly.
If you are considering placenta encapsulation, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider and make an informed decision based on the available evidence and any potential risks involved.
How to encapsulate a placenta
After looking into preparing the placenta myself and what I would need to buy etc, I decided I would just be too tired and busy to do it myself.
I asked Papa Ginge and he wasn’t keen so in the end I asked for recommendations in my Home Birth Group and decided to commission local doula Natalie Rickman at Mama Blessings to prepare my placenta for me.
My third stage for placenta encapsulation
I had a physiological third stage and had refused the injection. Having had a natural drug free home birth, it was important to me to have a natural third stage as well.
I had asked for delayed cord clamping and waited for the cord to stop pulsating before I allowed the midwives to cut it. I waited a little while for it to detach but then I decided I wanted to go to the toilet.
The midwife had the foresight to put a bed pan in the toilet in case the placenta detached which is quite common and of course it did. Just fell right out, painlessly into the bed pan.
This process took just over twenty minutes after the birth.
My daughter was born at 3.18am, the cord was clamped at 3.40am. At 3.41am there were signs of placental separation. I delivered the placenta at 3.45am.
The midwife checked it over, and it was perfect – if not rather large!
The practicalities of placenta encapsulation
I had set aside a big casserole dish and lid to put the placenta into.
I didn’t need to in the end though as my wonderful midwives had brought a big yellow clinical waste tub and they put the placenta in there, with the lid and into my fridge for me. Perfect for giving to my placenta specialist. Do remember to leave room in the fridge!
I had forgotten to arrange for the placenta encapsulation so I actually messaged Natalie the day after Lena was born and asked if she would be able to do it.
To my delight she said yes and came to my house to collect it later that day, which is incredible customer service.
I would thoroughly recommend Natalie if you are in her catchment area.
Size of the placenta = how many pills you will get
I don’t want to brag, but Natalie said mine was her favourite placenta lol. It was the largest number of placenta pills she had ever made, by A LOT. Does my placenta look big in this?! Jokes.
Natalie dropped the placenta off a couple of days later. Natalie also made me a beautiful placenta print that I didn’t expect but I will always treasure. I have since framed it and it is above my bed! My daughter now enjoys looking at it.
The pills came in a lovely blue glass bottle. I also had an additional bag of them as I produced too many for the bottle.
Both pregnancies I’ve had I get very sick during the time the placenta is developing and with Lena I had hyperemesis gravidarum. I do wonder if part of the reason I get so sick is because of the size of my placenta. Each time, once the placenta is fully formed I no longer feel sick.
What was taking the placenta pills like?
Taking the pills was no big deal. It didn’t feel or taste any different to me than a regular pill really. But I am used to taking whole-food supplements.
What were my results from taking my placenta pills?
I definitely didn’t get the same post-partum blues that I did with my son.
With my son, around day 3-4 I remember feeling my hormones just tank. I kept crying uncontrollably but not knowing why, I didn’t get this with my second child.
This may have been because I was on such a high from the birth. I experienced such a lot of birth trauma from my first birth.
For the 3 years and 2 months between my two births, I wanted more than anything to achieve a vaginal birth. I was ecstatic to have had my dream home birth.
Also, because I didn’t actually receive and start taking the capsules until day 3, I’m not sure they would have prevented the blues that much.
Some days I would take them and some I wouldn’t. I didn’t notice feeling especially different when I did or didn’t.
I got mastitis one week in and had to stop taking them while I had a fever (a Chinese medicine thing). So perhaps that reduced their effectiveness, who knows.
I did have an enormous milk supply which is one of the reported benefits of placentophagy but this may be a result of having nursed my first child for 2.5 years which is purported to increase milk supply 25% with subsequent children.
I actually had too much milk. Lena would spit up a lot following her feeds, almost full feeds too. I also developed mastitis a week in.
If you have had low supply issues in the past it might be worth giving it a go. If like me, you have over-supply issues then that’s worth bearing in mind too as more milk was more of a con than a pro for me.
Would I do placenta encapsulation again?
I probably wouldn’t bother with the capsules again. I didn’t find enough benefits from doing it.
I’m pleased I gave it a try as I always would have wondered ‘what if’ but there were no major benefits for me and I had too much milk.
Would I recommend placenta encapsulation?
Whilst personally for me, I didn’t find any significant benefit. I’m still pleased I tried it, I have no regrets about trying it. I likely would have regretted not doing it and that is important to me. Sometimes I obsess about the things I didn’t do so would always rather regret having done something than not.
Apparently you should keep the pills frozen for menopause as they can be helpful. I’m not sure about taking something frozen for so long but for now I’m keeping them frozen (update: our freezer died and I sadly lost the pills).
I would absolutely recommend taking photos of it and getting a print made if you can (like mine in the featured image). I know it sounds odd but mine is so special to me.
Placenta encapsulation tips
If you choose to get someone to prepare it for you, research them and their processes thoroughly.
They are dealing with what essentially are people’s internal organs, that they then consume. It’s a bit bizarre, you want to make sure they are following appropriate hygiene process etc. You don’t want to get someone else’s by mistake either!
You can consider doing it yourself or getting a trusted birth partner to do it for you.
Research how your birthing choices might affect the placenta, would you still want to do it if you had a labour with drugs, a managed third stage, c-section?
Would you want to do it if the placenta came out in the birthing pool?
Read up, follow your gut and make an informed decision. I like this article by the brilliant Sara Wickham about placentophagy.
Did you do placenta encapsulation? How did you find it?
If you are considering doing it and have any questions I haven’t covered do leave me a question in the comments and I promise that I’ll reply.
Liked this post about placenta encapsulation? Then you might also like:
- My ultimate guide to pregnancy and childbirth
- How hiring a doula helped me have a home birth after C-section…
- Overcoming birth trauma
- Emergency C-section Birth Story
- Top 5 tips to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant
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Please note this post was first published in June 2017 and was last updated June 2023.