The Placenta Plan
****This is not intended to be a blog in favour of or against placenta encapsulation. Given that it is an unregulated industry, I implore everyone to do their own research, assess their own health and needs and make the decision that works best for them. In my own research, I found that the information on the process itself was lacking, so I hope that my experience will help to provide some insight for those who are curious like I was!
From the moment I saw that little plus sign on that sweet little stick, the research began. I researched anything and everything having to do with pregnancy, child birth, babies and breastfeeding. Along the way, I stumbled upon this fascinating industry that deals in…how shall I phrase this…placenta aftercare?? I was shocked at the types of things women all over the world were choosing to do with this magical organ that nourished and sustained their beautiful babes for nine-ish months. I saw everything from placenta smoothies, to placenta art and I’ve gotta be honest, a lot of it totally grossed me out; but the more I read, the less I wanted to see that beloved organ end up in a bio-hazard bin.
Despite my hesitations, I was really drawn to the benefits of placenta consumption. Though scientific and clinical studies are lacking, consuming ones own placenta after birth is a practice that has been around for a long time and well, the proof is in the pudding. Those who consume their own placentas claim to have a faster healing process, reduced rates of postpartum depression and boosts of energy (even in the midst of newborn sleep deprivation). Plus, it honestly just seemed kind of natural to me. Humans and for some reason, camels, are the only mammals who don’t routinely consume their placentas after birth. Placentas are basically nutrient packed pancakes that have nourished your baby for nine months (give or take)…why let all of that goodness go to waste?
With the “ick factor” in mind, I quickly ruled out the possibility of eating my placenta in its raw form or putting it into my morning smoothie. Though the art was kind of cool, I didn’t think Jamie would be down with the image of my placenta forever hanging on our wall. I loved the idea of planting it in the garden with a special tree or something like that, but it also seemed like a waste of vital nutrients to just pop it in the dirt. With all of that said, encapsulation certainly seemed like the best compromise.
So, with my curiosity piqued and a decision made, I set out in search of someone to encapsulate my placenta. I didn’t have a ton of knowledge on the subject because I hadn’t really known anyone who had encapsulated their placenta before; but I was sure of one thing, I had to know that it was MY placenta going into those capsules. In short, I needed to find someone who would come to me and would let me watch the whole process. My research led me to Lacey Park at Chinook City Doulas. To get the ball rolling, I basically just gave Lacey my due date, we loosely scheduled a day around that and we were off.
First off, let me say that Lacey is one cool chick. She’s a mom of four and is so passionate about the whole process of becoming a mom. From prenatal, to postpartum, to breastfeeding, to encapsulating, this girl has done it all and has made it her mission to support other mamas through their journey. One of the major benefits of encapsulating with Lacey and her team is not just that they come to you and complete the process in your home, but you are also able to pick their brains while they work, because they are all postpartum specialists.
The encapsulation itself requires two, two hour sessions over the course of two days. Day one, Lacey arrived in scrubs and cap and gloves and “Dextered” the crap out of my kitchen! If you’ve never seen an episode of Dexter, that basically means that she covered the entire thing in plastic wrap to ensure she could get as sterile an environment as possible. Day one consisted of thawing out my placenta, cleaning it, steaming it to remove pathogens, cutting it up and popping it into the dehydrator. We chose to freeze our placenta so that we didn’t have to schedule the encapsulation immediately after returning home from the hospital. This is an optional step, but if you need a little more flexibility with the date of encapsulation, freezing is a good option.
Lacey thawed my placenta under running water and cleaned it the same way. I was utterly fascinated by the process. I’m not generally a squeamish person, so I was eager to watch. My husband on the other hand, is known for his weak stomach, so, while I watched and documented the process, Jamie and Sawyer opted to hang out in the backyard.
As Lacey worked, we gabbed about placentas and the booming encapsulation industry. In 2012, encapsulation took off after January Jones from “Mad Men” said in an interview, that she encapsulated her placenta and that it helped her beat the baby blues. She got some flack for it from some, but, like any celebrity endorsed health trend, the public interest in encapsulation increased dramatically. This is obviously great for encapsulators like Lacey, but it also creates a bit of a problem for the unregulated industry as a whole. With no regulations in place, it is tough to maintain consistency in terms of training and cleanliness. Despite discussing the pitfalls of the industry, Lacey’s passion for a safe encapsulation process and proper training made me super confident that I had chosen the right gal (her credentials are a mile long!).
Once the placenta has been steamed, it’s ready for the dehydrator. At this point, my placenta just looked like a slab of beef, so I told Jamie that it was safe for a quick peek. From here, Lacey sliced it up into jerky-like pieces and popped them into the dehydrator, where they sat for 24 hours on my kitchen counter. According to Lacey, some placentas can give off a bit of a cooking smell overnight, but we didn’t notice a thing.
The next day, Lacey came back to grind the dehydrated placenta and place it into capsules. Day two is decidedly less icky, but just as cool. The size of your placenta will determine how many pills you are able to get and it can vary quite widely. We ended up with close to 80 capsules in the end.
The recommendation is to begin taking the pills immediately and continue taking them until they are gone, as there are no preservatives in the pills themselves. As well, Lacey and her team can whip up a tincture at the time of the encapsulation. This tincture can be used to combat PMS symptoms or stress beyond the postpartum period.
The whole experience was fascinating, but I have to say, my favourite part of the whole thing is the keepsake we received at the end. When Sawyer’s umbilical chord fell off, we were left with this little dried up nubbin attached to a chip clip. Not exactly swoon-worthy, but I didn’t have the heart to just toss it. Lacey, in her infinite wisdom, salvaged the umbilical chord piece that was attached to the placenta, shaped it into a heart and dehydrated it so that we would have a permanent keepsake of the chord that kept our little man nourished for nine beautiful months.
So, here I am, left with 80 placenta pills, a beautiful chord keepsake, a positive experience and a tough decision to make. Do I take the pills? At this point, you may be wondering why I would go through all of this if I wasn’t sure I was going to take the pills…well, it’s a bit of a complicated answer. I was pretty sold on encapsulation, but between the time I decided to encapsulate and the moment I ended up with the pills, we faced a bit of a glitch. After he was born, Sawyer and I were kept under observation due to the possibility of an infection. This precaution was taken thanks to my water breaking more than 24 hours prior to being induced.
Though we didn’t end up having any signs of infection, I didn’t want to run the risk of placing possibly infected tissue back into my body, especially since I was breastfeeding. I am pretty confident in my bodies ability to fight an infection, but I didn’t want to roll the dice with Sawyer’s teeny little body. I was super bummed, but I think it was the right decision.
Lacey and I did speak about this possibility at length and she assured me that if an infection was present, Chinook City Doula’s would not have proceeded with the encapsulation and I would have received a full refund…cause they’re awesome like that!
Based on the information I gathered and the testimonials that abound, I still believe that this is a wonderful option for new moms to help combat the challenges that can arise in those first few weeks. I will definitely try again if and when “Little Titty, The Sequel” rolls into town. For conversation sake though, we had a gal in our prenatal class who was really struggling with pregnancy related anxiety and depression, which put her at higher risk for the postpartum variety as well. Her doula recommended placenta encapsulation, and she credits the pills to her beautiful postpartum experience.
If you are in the Calgary area and contemplating placenta encapsulation for your own postpartum journey, please check out Lacey and her team at Chinook City Doulas. Your placenta will be in excellent hands!
Love, lust and baby dust,