The challenge: Take pills made from my placenta to see if it helps me avoid postpartum depression and increases my breast milk production.
The family: I live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with my husband, Bobby, and our three children, Bo, 7, Rudy, 3, and Lucy, 5 months.
The concept: Last summer, a few weeks after my childhood best friend, Viv, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, she posted this status on Facebook: “So happy I did placenta encapsulation. No postpartum depression and plenty of breast milk!”
I knew what a placenta was, of course, but I wasn’t so sure about encapsulation. Viv explained: “After the mother gives birth she keeps the placenta and processes it into capsules.” Processing, in this case, meant cutting it into strips and drying them on a dehydrator. The dried strips are then placed in a food processor and ground into dust, which is measured into medicinal capsules and swallowed just like any other supplement.
Newly pregnant with my third child, I found the idea of placenta encapsulation intriguing but, to be honest, slightly repulsive. Still, anything that could help prevent the depression and low breast milk production I’d experienced after the births of my first two children was worth considering.
The research: My sister Kim, a mother of five and a pharmacist who specializes in hormone treatment, explained that many of the postpartum problems women face are caused by a rapid drop in their levels of progesterone and other hormones after giving birth and that the placenta is rich in those hormones. Both my nurse midwife and obstetrician said that while the benefits were unproven, there weren’t any serious risks.My husband was supportive, though he admitted he thought it was a bit gross, and I decided to go for it.
The process: Actually finding someone in my area to do the encapsulation was harder. Finally, through my doula, I contacted Seanda Bradshaw, also a doula. She charged $150—a small price to pay, considering I’d been ready to take on the task myself—and said I should pack two gallon-size plastic zip top bags and a small cooler in my hospital bag. (I also had to tell the hospital staff not to dispose of the placenta, which they usually do.) Seanda picked up the placenta shortly after my daughter, Lucy, was born, and returned the next day with 160 capsules in two glass jars. (She used the “raw method” and explained that she had sliced it into small pieces and dehydrated it, before grinding the pieces into a reddish-brown powder.) Though excited, I hesitated when I realized I could see the powder inside the capsule. I downed a few quickly, expecting a bloody, metallic taste, but was surprised to find they had no taste at all.
The outcome: I got over my initial hesitation and took the capsules as Seanda prescribed: four per day for the first two weeks, two per day for the next month, and then whenever I needed an energy lift after that. Amazingly, my milk came in by the second day, before I’d even checked out of the hospital. With my other kids, Bo and Rudy, it had taken four or five days. Even better, two months after giving birth to Lucy, I still didn’t have any signs of postpartum depression and didn’t felt lethargic. In fact, come 7 a.m., I was up scrambling eggs, checking homework, and packing lunches for the older kids—an energy level I would have found unfathomable in the days after Bo and Rudy were born.
The takeaway: I’ve already recommended placenta encapsulation—the science may be unproven, but the cost and risks are low enough that it seems worth trying. Interested? Ask doulas in your area, your doctor, or a natural healing establishment to help find someone to do the service.
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Reprinted from KIWI Magazine