The Placenta

What did you do the minute you found out you were expecting? Did you think about a name for the baby? Or a certain car seat? Did you immerse yourself in all things baby and motherhood? As new moms, we tend to go above and beyond considering the well-being of the new life we are bringing into the world. We arm ourselves with information about care and safety for our newborn, but not what being a new mom means for ourselves as mothers.

Postpartum mood disorders like depression and anxiety are the most common complication related to pregnancy and childbirth, yet they are not universally screened for. In fact, according to the CDC, an average of 15-20% of all postpartum women in the U.S. suffer from depression, anxiety, or psychosis. To put this in perspective, gestational diabetes only occurs in about 7% of all pregnancies in the US–that’s conservatively half as prevalent. However, unlike postpartum mood disorders, gestational diabetes is something regularly screened for by healthcare providers.


Due to lack of screening and other factors, many women go undiagnosed with PPD. To make matters a bit more complicated, even those who are diagnosed do not feel comfortable receiving treatment in the form of pharmaceutical drugs. This is mainly due to the fear of the side effects to them or the baby (as well as a myriad of other personal reasons).  


As a result of these fears and apprehensions, the search is on for a more natural and gentle treatment. This is why some have turned to placenta encapsulation. There has been anecdotal evidence which has shown the placenta might actually be able to support your emotional state postpartum.

Hormones and the Placenta


The placenta is an intricate, miraculous organ made from scratch during pregnancy. It is a baby’s lifeline: it joins a mother to her baby,  provides oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord, and is a powerful barrier to protect baby from harm.


The placenta is an endocrine organ, producing hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. As the placenta grows, it takes over for the other endocrine organs such as the thyroid and hypothalamus. Right after the delivery stage of labor, mom may experience a sudden change in mood–this is due in part to the placenta delivery. This is because as the placenta is expelled, your hormone function once again is controlled by your pre-pregnancy endocrine organs.


It it believed this extreme hormonal crash mothers experience in the weeks and months after delivery is the reason we are seeing postpartum mood disorders at the frequency we are. This process paired with interrupted sleep and overall adjustment to parenthood, can be overwhelming and stressful. Some call it the ‘baby blues’, but the truth is there is a spectrum of postpartum mood disorders, with many shades of gray. Minor “blues” could include general feelings of sadness, while more severe forms of depression include loss of appetite, crying, or feelings of inadequacy.


Placenta Encapsulation


Placenta Encapsulation is the process in which you prepare your placenta to be consumed in the form of a capsule. The concept of encapsulation may seem odd the first time you hear about it, but placenta ingestion is a common practice amongst most mammals in the wild. There are a variety of theories as to why most mammals do this and the truth is, we might never really know. However, considering we are mammals ourselves, we may stand to learn from this practice.


There is significant anecdotal evidence as to why this practice may be a good one. Women who take placenta capsules often report less mood swings, an increase in milk production, and feel significantly more energetic. These reported positive outcomes may be partially due to the retained pregnancy hormones the placenta contains as well as its high natural iron content.


If you suffer from anemia or are predisposed to depression disorders, placenta encapsulation might be an option for you. Most care providers have heard of the practice and are willing to discuss the benefits and risks. Encapsulation is only contraindicated in the case of infection or fever during labor, or if the placenta has been sent to pathology after delivery.


Once you decide placenta encapsulation is something you might be interested in, your next step would be to seek out a trained placenta encapsulation specialist. A placenta encapsulation specialist can answer many of the questions you might have with regard to encapsulating your placenta. They are educated on the benefits and contraindications of this practice. In addition, they have also had comprehensive preparation and blood-borne pathogen training.


Questions to ask a potential encapsulator:


  • What type of training have you done?
  • How do you encapsulate the placenta? (Raw or steamed preparation?)
  • How can I get my placenta to you for encapsulation?
  • Where will you encapsulate my placenta?
  • What precautions do you take to make sure your workspace is clean and that I’m not ingesting anything harmful?


As a new mom we know your main focus is your little one’s well being. However, it is important you don’t forget that their well being is linked to yours. Placenta Encapsulation is just one option you have available to help support the physical and mental areas of your motherhood journey. While the decision is ultimately yours as to whether you decide to encapsulate your placenta, if you are someone who is predisposed to any of the conditions mentioned previously, it might be something to consider.  


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