Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
The practice of placenta-eating grabbed headlines recently after Actress January Jones extolled its benefits in People magazine.
Jones had the organ encapsulated after the birth of her son, and credits her high post-baby energy levels to the placenta pills, which she pops daily and “anytime she feels tired or down.” People quoted her insisting, “It’s not witch-crafty or anything! I suggest it to all moms!”
If you read this blog regularly, you probably remember that my doula offered me the option of placenta encapsulation. She said that mamas who ate their placentas had increased energy and milk supply, and that the pills also helped combat postpartum depression.
Ultimately, I chose not to have my placenta encapsulated. Now that I have a two-month-old and find it near impossible to stay awake past 9 PM, part of me wishes I’d made a different choice. Maybe the pills would’ve helped with the exhaustion that’s part of life with a newborn and a toddler.
I have friends who did it, and their experiences in doing so intrigue me. Like so much about having a child, from pregnancy to birth to parenting, it’s personal. I love hearing the stories of people who made choices different than mine and how they played out.
I think it’s cool that Jones talked about placenta encapsulation in People. She knew she was inviting controversy. That the “Ew, gross!” comments would prevail. Because, well, eating your own organ is kinda gross. But by offering herself up as the poster child for placenta eating, and in doing so thrusting the practice into the spotlight, Jones may help others.
And sure. No press is bad press, right?
Let’s move beyond The Ew Factor for just a moment, though, shall we? It may help overcome breastfeeding challenges, stave off postpartum depression, and give new mamas the energy to make it through the inevitable difficult times. Speaking from my current seat on the New Babyland rollercoaster, that’s serious stuff.
Women such as Jones who choose to encapsulate swear it does these things. (Theorizing and personal experience are the main practice drivers here. As one friend who had her placenta encapsulated pointed out, there likely aren’t lots of studies to quote because who will pay for them? No one profits [monetarily] directly from a woman downing her own placenta.)
Have you done it? Would you? All experiences and opinions welcome.
Thursday, September 29th, 2011
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.”
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.