This may or may not be the post you’d like to read. There are some rather detailed photos if you’re not keen on blood, or organ viewing. Now that the warning is out of the way lets get down to business. Throughout my pregnancy I had always planned on consuming my placenta. This is far more common than you think! Some people make an art print out of theirs from the web of veins, others bury theirs and plant a tree over it. Both I think are lovely ideas! Others save a dried bit of the umbilical cord in a piece of jewelry. While I think that is cool, I also don’t think I’d wear it. 😉
There was never a question as to whether or not I wanted to encapsulate my placenta. I don’t have the stomach to eat it cooked, but I definitely wanted to be able to use it postpartum. The question was would the hospital be willing to let us walk out the door with an organ, especially here in Italy where they may have different rules regarding this sort of thing? I asked my doctor, and he hesitantly responded… He said that I could take it home, but didn’t know why I would want to. Luckily, another woman had just recently asked to take hers home and that was a first for this hospital. So after working it out with the Italians they approved it, with a few rules: No burying it in the ground, no throwing it away in their garbage etc. Though, I wonder how anyone would know once it was were home?
I gathered the information I needed and made a plan. We had to provide our own cooler, an additional sealed container in which to place the placenta, and have it out of the hospital within six hours of delivery. This was a bit of a hassle because it meant that my husband would have to leave us to take it home and place it in the freezer to keep shortly after the birth of our son. But it was important to us. So he did it. What a guy, huh?! I didn’t think asking a friend to come pick up my placenta was a very nice request, so I am thankful that he could do it.
I am lucky I got to take it home at all considering how Redfield’s birth went. With the C-section, I was told that the placenta would have to be analyzed by the lab first to determine whether or not I could take it home. Something no one told me before. I was worried in all of the hassle of the surgery that they would forget and just dispose of it, as is probably routine for them. Thankfully that did not happen. We placed that sucker on ice and took it home!
With all of the problems we encountered shortly after birth, shortly followed by all of the newborn goodness, I didn’t get around to doing the encapsulation until about a month in! I didn’t want to rush into doing this just to get it done. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explains that the person performing the encapsulation needs to be in good headspace while working, as it affects the potency of the pills in the end. I did finally make the time to focus when I felt that it was time to do it. Why would I do this you may be wondering?
Placentophagy is actually quite common throughout the world, with many cultures and many thousands of years of history involved. But it is only becoming more prevalent in the United States in more recent years. There is some science behind eating the placenta. My main reason, after having a C-section, was because it contains Oxytocin (the love hormone) that you naturally produce during a natural birth. This hormone helps with pain and more importantly helps with bonding between mother and child. It also contains many hormones that boost your immune system and milk supply. Because of my C-section, my son missed out on many hormones that he would have otherwise received when passing through the birth canal. I wanted to give him everything I could, despite our experience.
Knowing that ingesting the placenta could go one of two ways, either it is helpful to mom and baby, or it can make baby blues a bit more pronounced, I have paid close attention to how I feel when taking them. Thus far, I react very well to them! I feel energetic and happy, and my milk supply has gotten quite a bit stronger. Some mom’s don’t care for how they feel taking it and choose not to continue. For me, I am a fan. If you want to encapsulate your placenta at home, there are many midwives that you could hire, just Google it. If you’re doing this yourself, make sure you do your research and ensure that you are working in a sterile environment. There are many resources and methods out there!
Before birth, I ordered an encapsulation kit from Amazon. This was pretty inexpensive and arrived here just in time! After about a month of being a new parent, I finally made the time to do the encapsulation. I waited until I was in the right mindset to begin the process. I took the placenta out of the freezer to thaw completely. The kitchen received a deep clean, the sink and utensils sterilized and cutting boards were wrapped in plastic. With that I was ready to begin.
I didn’t get to see my placenta during surgery, obviously, so I was very keen to view this little tree of life. I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of it. That might sound weird to some, but I grew this amazingly complex organ that nourished my child for more than nine months. It was incredible to see it “in the flesh”, if you will. The innervation was so detailed and strong, the color so vibrant. It made me cry a bit in thankfulness for its brief yet important existence.
In complete awe, I donned my gloves and I began to wash away the blood thoroughly in preparation for giving it a new purpose.
Wash it well
I cut away the remaining umbilical cord and amniotic sac, as those parts weren’t to be ingested, with help from my husband.
You’ll need a sharp knife as it is a lot like removing the silver skin from meat, tough and slippery.
After I was comfortable with how clean it was, taking photos and studying it some more, it was time to move on to the next step.
I gently placed my placenta in a steamer pot at a rolling boil along with some fresh ginger and lemon. The ginger and lemon are not for flavor, but for assistance in preservation. I steamed it for 15 minutes. It will shrink quite a bit! I did read that it has quite a potent smell, but to me, it smelled just like liver. It didn’t bother me, or my husband.
Preparing for Dehydration or Baking
Once steamed, place on your sterilized cutting board. Dispose of the ginger and lemons. I sliced the placenta into thin strips. The thinner they are, the more quickly they will become dehydrated. I then placed the strips on parchement paper.
Bake & Encapsulate
I do not own a dehydrator, so I chose to bake my placenta. The goal is to bake it SLOWLY. So I baked it for around eight hours until dry and brittle. It ended up very tough! Although TCM suggests using a mortar and pestle to grind up the dried placenta instead of a food processor or blender due to the “energy” it would use, that would take forever. In fact, using our food processor took hours because the strips of placenta had become so hard!
When I finally got the consistency I was looking for, I moved on to the encapsulation by simply following the directions on the packaging. It was very simple!
Once I was finished, I grabbed a jar, to place them in and the following day I began to take them in the morning along with my other morning rituals. As I mentioned before, I have had a very positive reaction to them! Should you choose to do the same, I hope you do as well! With all of the things that didn’t go according to my birth plan, I am so thankful that we were able to encapsulate my placenta. It allowed me to intentionally participate in Redfield’s birth, something I was desperate for.