Placenta Pills: Might Presentation Change Your Mind?

Last week, my awesome doula, Dawn, posted this on Facebook:

“Yes, I turn placentas into capsules for new moms. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, moms feel sooo much better! They have less fatigue, postpartum depression, increased milk supply and many more wonderful results.”

Well.

When that spate of placenta-eating stories hit a few weeks back, I admit: I couldn’t get past the pictures. I didn’t care what the touted “benefits” were, no way was I even considering eating anything that looked like that. I didn’t read one word.

Then Dawn, whom I trust completely, brings up the subject. And look at that photo. Nice, neat little pills! Surrounded by pink flowers! Oh so pleasantly palatable. OK, I thought. Let’s talk.

I opened my mind and dug into the topic a bit. My main questions:

1) Seriously. Why?

Answer: Apparently one of the main benefit claims is that it helps cure postpartum depression connected to a drop in hormone levels. (When the placenta is inside you, it supplies you with those hormones, like Oxytocin, which disappear abruptly when it does.) Other purported benefits include more energy and increased milk supply, as Dawn outlined above, and decreased postpartum hemorrhaging and pain.

2) Have people been doing this for centuries? Meaning, is it one of those “natural” things that industrialized society hastily dropped?

Answer: No. Other cultures do revere it, though. After all, your body produced the placenta, its very own temporary organ, solely to nourish your developing child. It’s often given a ceremony and proper burial. Most other land mammals, however, do practice placentophagy, as it’s called, possibly to evade predators by destroying this evidence of birth. To paraphrase KJ Antonia at Slate.com, most other mammals also eat their own poo. Folks don’t seem too eager to jump on that bandwagon.

3) How does one turn a placenta into pills?

Answer: Well, Dawn rinses, steams, dehydrates then grinds the placenta, in your home or hers. She then puts the powder into those neat little capsules, then puts the capsules into a tidy bottle, labeled with instructions. Her charge: A very reasonable, in my book, $125 (Gerbera daisies not included).

4) C’mon. Does it really work?

Answer: There doesn’t seem to be any medical proof that it does. On the other hand, plenty of mamas who’ve done it and doulas like Dawn swear by its benefits.

My conclusion? If I were at risk for postpartum depression, I would do it in a heartbeat. No doubt. And I do see why others who are not at risk might as well. To each her own. But as it stands, at this very moment, I think I’ll skip the placentophagy, even in pill form. Maybe I’ll bury it instead? Or not. I’m giving birth in the dead of winter, and I’m not sure how respectful it’d be to wedge a life-sustaining organ between the Tombstones and frozen peas for a few months.

You?

Image courtesy www.placentapills.com.

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  1. by anti jen

    On September 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    jim photographed one of our kids’ placentas, and even the midwives were grossed out. hey, let’s eat meconium instead! wait, no. (tweeting this post, btw)

  2. by Eileen

    On September 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    We kept the first placenta and buried it with a new tree. It grew crazy fast and strong. We didn’t have a place to plant for #2 and I forgot for #3. But I always like the idea of doing something with it…plus I’ve heard the hosptials can sell them to skin care or research companies. I’m not sure if that’s true. That doesn’t seem right to me.

  3. by Berit Thorkelson

    On September 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Yeah, anti jen, Awesome Doula Dawn took a photo of mine/Roy’s too. Totally appreciated, but also very hard to look at!

    Eileen: I really do love the bury/tree combo.

  4. by Eve

    On September 30, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Alright. I almost “unliked” Parents.com on FB due to the lack of visceral conversation on this topic.

    So, we did this. I was REALLY REALLY (I can’t bold this or cap it enough)reluctant to do it. I didn’t want anyone to know I was doing it. So of course as we were having the capsules made we had a house full of visitors. :/ Everyone ended up being really supportive of it.

    Why did we do it? I have never been diagnosed with depression. I knew it also helped with milk production, and even before Milo’s birth I KNEW I wasn’t going to fail at breastfeeding. After the unexpected c-section (following 8 hours of pushing at home) I didn’t want to feel like I would fail at anything else.

    I took the capsules for 4 weeks. I felt great. Who knows, maybe it was placebo but I don’t care. I had a ton of energy and was up walking over 2 miles a day witin 2 weeks of his birth.

    I would do it again.

    Also, I’ve heard or read somewhere that you can freeze them and they help with menopause. I’m going to contact our Doula, who also does this, and see if that is true.

    Alright, feel free to judge me :)

  5. by Eve

    On September 30, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Oops! I meant “…on FB due to the lack of compassionate comments on this topic and strong viceral comments…”

  6. by Berit

    On September 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Eve! I honestly, truly think that’s AWESOME. So happy to know someone who did and and to hear firsthand the (brief) story about what got you there. I completely see where you are coming from, and it does make me think. No judging. Drives me nutty when mamas, especially, get all judgey, over the way another is doing it. We’re all doing what we think is best for our selves, kids, families, and what’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for another. Thanks a ton for sharing. Perfect, wonderful, and very important addition to the conversation.

  7. by Jeremy

    On October 5, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    We have our first-born’s placenta in the freezer. It was supposed to have been planted with a linden in our front yard (probably a more dubious decision than placentaophagy) but when the time came I had completely forgotten about it. So… another tree? Our second is on the way. If my wife won’t eat it maybe I WILL. I’ll need energy too! :)