First things first — what’s so special about placentas?
The placenta is one of the purest symbols of life, growth, spirituality, and nourishment. In my post here, I’ve listed 25 neat placenta facts! If interested to learn even more about this incredible organ, I recommend reading the books Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra by Robin Lim, Repurpose Your Placenta: 7 Amazing Gifts From Your Baby’s Afterbirth by Ruth Goldberg, and Placenta: The Tree of Life (Gene and Cell Therapy).
Why might I consider taking placenta pills?
There’s a range of reasons why birth givers choose to consume their placenta. Some do so for spiritual reasons, others for traditional or cultural reasons, and most recently the practice has grown in popularity among Western society for health reasons.
Purported benefits of consuming your placenta:
- Balances postpartum hormones
- Boosts energy levels
- Helps speed recovery of damaged tissue
- Replenishes iron stores
- Reduces postnatal bleeding
- Reduces stress
- Increases breast milk supply
- Wards off postpartum baby blues & depression
Placentas are comprised of various goodies such as:
- Prolactin (promotes lactation & maternal instinct)
- Oxytocin (promotes let-down reflex & encourages bonding)
- Placental Opiod-Enhancing Factor (generates body’s natural opiods)
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (regulates thyroid function)
- Iron (may help replenish maternal stores)
- Cortisone (reduces inflammation)
- CRH (low levels are implicated in postpartum depression)
- Interferon (triggers protective immune functions)
- Prostaglandins (helps uterus return to pre-pregnancy size)
- Hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying molecule provides energy increase)
- Urokinase Inhibiting Factor & Factor XIII (enhances wound healing)
- Immunoglobulin G (supports the immune system)
- Human Placental Lactogen (hormone with lactogenic properties)
- …and more
What research has been done on placenta consumption (placentophagy)?
Unfortunately, given the general lack of interest in funding placenta research as of yet, we don’t currently have much good research (i.e. well-designed studies) on placenta consumption, whether in support or against the practice. I’m working to compile a list of what IS available, so please check back soon.
What is the history of placenta rituals in different cultures?
A proper dive into the history would require a book’s worth of words, but I’ll touch on a few perspectives here briefly.
The placenta is historically treated with utmost reverence and respect in many cultures. Some view it as a child’s ‘living relative,’ ‘elder sibling,’ or ‘guardian angel.’
Placenta has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years for liver and kidney ailments as well as male impotence.
For Maori people, the word placenta is synonymous with ‘land’: whenua. Traditionally, they would bury the placenta in a place of significance as a return to Mother Earth. Navajo traditional custom is similar, emphasizing a link to the child’s birthplace.
For those of Malaysian, Indonesian, and Nigerian (Igbo) cultures, the placenta is considered a spiritual twin of the baby and it’s customarily buried. In Cambodia, the burial of the placenta is very important as it’s deemed to be the origin of the baby’s soul.
The Hmong people believe the placenta is a link between the realms of the living and spirit, and the individual to whom it belongs maintains a special connection to it throughout life. For this reason, it is not discarded — instead, it’s buried in the household to ensure the individual can return to their ‘jacket’ (the Hmong translation of ‘placenta’). Upon doing so, it’s believed the individual’s soul can move forward into the spiritual realm and then can be reincarnated. If the soul is unable to reunite with their ‘jacket’ it’s believed they will remain in a wandering state of unease for eternity.
In the U.S., people have been publicly sharing their stories of placenta consumption since the 1970s, though the practice likely predated that era in secret.
Placenta has even been used in modern times to treat postpartum hemorrhage (a bit of placenta is placed between the cheek) when pharmaceuticals were unavailable or unsuccessful. Whether this works is supported only by anecdote at this point, but seems like a logical application given the oxytocin surge absorbed directly into mucosal tissue.
Most nonhuman mammals consume their placenta after delivery for reasons that remain largely inconclusive among scientists, but an interesting fact nonetheless. Mammals that don’t typically eat their placenta include sea mammals, camelids (camels, alpacas, llamas), and marsupials (whose placentas reabsorb after birth).
What can I use my placenta for?
Many people throw it away. Some bury it, others consume it or process it for personal uses, or incorporate it into art. Here are a few ideas:
- Liquids: Homeopathy, Tincture, Essence, Mother’s Broth…
- Foods: Jerky, Truffles, Cookies, Smoothies…
- Body Care: Salve/Balm, Lotion, Body Butter…
- Keepsakes: Prints, Cord Art, Jewelry, Commemorative Jar…
- Prep Kits: Sacred Severance (cord burning), Lotus Birth, Burial…
What’s the difference between Raw Method and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method?
TCM is a centuries-old method based on the ancient Xi principle. The belief is that after birth, the birth giver’s body enters a “cold state” and needs warmth for ideal healing and recovery. In this method, the placenta is first rinsed, then steamed with traditional herbs to increase Xi and tonifying properties, as well as to destroy any bacteria present on the placenta. Then it is dehydrated, ground, and encapsulated.
The Raw Method is founded on the belief that heating above a certain temperature leads to loss of essential nutrients. The steaming step of the traditional method is therefore skipped; raw sliced placenta is rinsed (unless instructed otherwise), dehydrated, ground, and encapsulated.
Both preparation styles have similar benefits. However, many feel that TCM typically provides a slower and steadier energy, while Raw offers quicker, more intense bursts of energy upfront. Those with a history of headaches, anxiety, insomnia, GBS+ diagnosis, or bipolar disorder may consider choosing TCM method. Before deciding which style is best for you, glance over the “Can I consume my placenta if I had…” question below.
Tell me about Placenta Tincture…
Think of placenta tincture as like a “rescue remedy.” It has the same benefits as pills, but lasts forever if you’re mindful to refill it and store it properly. You can begin using this as soon as it’s done steeping (it takes approximately 6 weeks to mature). Detailed instructions will be provided.
Especially helpful for:
- Long-term lactation support
- Hormonal imbalance (some use it for postpartum menses, daughter’s menarche, menopause)
- Moments of high stress or anxiety
- Times of transition
Tell me about Placenta Salve…
This is a placenta-infused balm made of all-natural ingredients, used to address a variety of issues. Especially helpful for:
- Cuts or burns
- Diaper rash
- Chapped, irritated skin
- Childhood eczema
- Perineal issues
- Cradle cap
- Cesarean scar healing
- Cracked nipples
- Insect bites
- Poison ivy rash
How about Placenta Smoothies?
Smoothies can be made in-home and enjoyed while awaiting placenta pill delivery, or stored in freezer (either as placenta cubes or with smoothie mix). Ingredients are based on your preferred flavors.
Especially helpful for:
- Those who cannot swallow pills
- Those with a sweet tooth!
- Immediate energy boost
- Extra nutrition kick
What’s Mother’s Tea / Broth?
This is leftover herbal-infused liquid from the placenta steaming process. You may add small amounts to tea, soup, smoothies and the like. It’s meant to be consumed fresh (within a week); otherwise you may freeze for future use for up to 6 months.
Now tell me about Placenta Prints…
Placenta printing is an artistic way to capture the beauty of your placenta. The print makes the ‘Tree of Life’ especially apparent and highlights its uniqueness. I use placental blood and/or food-safe, non-toxic dye to create the print(s), depending on your preference. Typically, I’m able to make 2-3 prints with a single placenta. May be laminated and/or framed for an additional fee.
What do the laws say about placenta encapsulation?
It’s legal to have your placenta encapsulated. It’s not a currently regulated practice on the federal or state level. The profession is not regulated by the FDA or cottage industry laws because we provide this custom service to individuals, not for mass consumption or for sale in the pharmaceutical market.
Placentas are generally classified as “products of conception” and treated as medical waste, or sent to Pathology in hospitals. They’re frequently discarded as biohazard garbage. In the past, parents faced legal ramifications for attempting to bring their own sacred placenta home to use or dispose of as they wished. However, as of 2016, the state of Texas passed a law stating that birth givers may take their placenta home.
There are no laws prohibiting the transport of placentas as they aren’t considered organs intended for transplant.
What are the suspected risks of placenta consumption?
The answer here is complex; it depends on your medical history, your baby’s health, method of preparation, and other factors. Placenta consumption is NOT necessarily a safe choice for every person or situation.
In our consultation, we will cover risk factors to ensure your placenta is suitable for consumption. I do not process placentas with confirmed risk for consumption, but can offer other services to honor your placenta. Please scroll down to the “Who should not consume placenta?” question on this page.
In instances of placental infection, there is risk of re-infection upon consumption. If you’re breastfeeding this risk may subsequently extend to your baby. Your care provider should already be aware if you have an infection however, and in this case the hospital won’t release the placenta from pathology.
Additionally, there is known risk in spreading bloodborne illness should someone other than the mother consume the placenta.
Some women have reported low milk supply when consuming placenta before their milk comes in, possibly due to the traces of progesterone found in placenta. Though, this outcome isn’t across the board and I suggest initiating a conversation with your lactation consultant should you have personal concerns.
Some women experience adverse mood effects after taking placenta pills for an extended period of time, including headache, anxiety, and generally feeling “icky.” This is good indication to simply stop taking the pills.
As I do not make any medical claims or health diagnoses, I do recommend having a conversation with your pregnancy care provider based on your own particular circumstances if you think this will help you feel more confident in whatever choice you make.
Can I consume my placenta if I had…
An epidural, labor drugs, or cesarean section?
Typical labor drugs are shown to pass through the placenta quickly, and only a small residual amount should remain in placental blood.
A lotus birth?
While encapsulation is not possible with a true Lotus Birth, there are several ways to achieve a modified lotus birth and encapsulate your placenta. Please inquire to discuss options.
A water birth?
You can consume your placenta if it’s birthed in water. However, in certain circumstances it may be best to use the TCM method.
Meconium staining of the placenta should not increase health risk. It is sterile and doesn’t contain normal fecal bacteria. It is dangerous for a baby to inhale, but is otherwise harmless. Your placenta will be rinsed well prior to preparation.
Delayed/immediate cord clamping?
Timing of cord clamping won’t affect ability to encapsulate your placenta. However, evidence shows waiting for the cord to cease pulsing before clamping/cutting is ideal because blood flowing through the cord from the placenta belongs to your baby, who is at greater risk of anemia and other health issues when the cord is immediately clamped.
A desire for cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking shouldn’t affect your ability to encapsulate. Mention to your banking company that you intend to keep your placenta.
Placenta sent to pathology in hospital?
There is a chance your placenta will be treated with chemicals, stored improperly, contaminated with unsterile tools, or that you will receive the wrong placenta when returned. If your placenta must be examined in pathology, consider requesting that a portion of it be taken away so you can encapsulate the rest should testing results be negative.
These are both common and harmless. Large calcifications are removed as they offer no health benefits, and smaller ones disintegrate in the heating process.
Gestational diabetes? Positive Group B Strep result?
The above conditions have no bearing on whether you can encapsulate your placenta, regardless of treatment choice. Any signs of infection or other issues should be monitored and noted by your provider, in which case it is sent to pathology. Please see this article on GBS+ and placenta consumption for more information.
This condition requires a cesarean birth, but should not affect ability to encapsulate. Communicate with your care provider that you intend to keep your placenta.
You can still encapsulate your placenta if you developed pre-E in pregnancy or labor. Any signs of infection or other issues should be monitored and noted by your provider, in which case it is sent to pathology.
A premature baby?
This is possible, however the number of capsules may be fewer than average.
Who should not consume placenta?
It’s not recommended to consume your placenta with the following conditions: active STI/STD, chorioamnitis, cholestasis, choriocarcinoma. I cannot process your placenta if you are infected with a bloodborne pathogen such as HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. You may opt for a different preparation method with PUPPPs and pre-eclampsia to further reduce toxins.
I do not recommend placenta consumption for anyone other than the mother, or for those who engaged in chronically heavy cigarette smoking, drug or alcohol use throughout pregnancy. I would also advise considering personal load of toxin exposure during pregnancy — namely, lead, mercury and arsenic. That said, while heavy metals have been detected in placental blood, the levels were found to be similar to those found in breast milk.
If you are taking any prescription medications, please consult your doctor’s advice on whether placenta consumption is suitable for you.
In our consultation, we will cover risk factors to ensure your placenta is suitable for consumption. I do not process placentas with confirmed risk for consumption, but can offer other services to honor the placenta.
What ingredients do you use in the treatment process?
The placenta pills are 100% your placenta — no fillers, preservatives, or binding agents. All ingredients used in other preparations are organic and vegan. Halal, Kosher, and gluten-free ingredients available upon request. During our consultation we will discuss specifics as well as any allergies or sensitivities.
What kind of hygiene, sterilization and safety protocols do you adhere to?
Risk is largely shouldered by the encapsulator in their workspace. Contamination risk in an industry-standard workplace is very low for the placenta itself. That said, I do maintain continuous, current certification in OSHA-Bloodborne Pathogens & Infection Control and Texas Food Handlers.
- All equipment in contact with the placenta is disinfected and/or disposable. It never directly touches a counter or other surface.
- I wear sterile gloves, a face mask, and an apron during all stages of preparation.
- Station and equipment sanitizing products include EPA-registered hospital grade disinfectant.
- I use glass cutting boards and single-use disposable products whenever possible.
I’m happy to provide a written document of my standard operating procedures upon request.
How do you control access to the workspace?
My typical protocol involves restricting my family and others from my house when processing a placenta. This allows time to focus, to maintain continuous hygiene standards, and to work efficiently so your placenta goods will be completed more quickly.
What if I’m unsure about encapsulating at this time? Can I save my placenta in case I decide to encapsulate later?
If you’re undecided, you can keep your placenta in a fridge for up to 72 hours, and move to the back of a freezer afterward. Alternatively, you may store it in the freezer right away. It can remain here for up to a year to be utilized within that timeframe. However, do keep in mind that early postpartum is the ideal time for maximizing encapsulation benefits. I’m not always able to accommodate late bookings, but I’m happy to try my best.
Does it taste bad?
Placenta pills don’t taste like much of anything! Some encapsulators offer flavored capsules, but it is difficult to source capsules that don’t contain synthetic, potentially harmful ingredients. This is why I provide flavored capsules by direct request only and for an extra fee.
If placenta is added to a smoothie, the flavor, texture, and odor will be disguised by other ingredients.
Is placenta consumption vegan?
Yes, consuming your own placenta is vegan. It doesn’t harm any animals (including yourself). I provide vegan capsules made with vegetable glycerin. The party to whom the organ belongs (you) has consented to its consumption. Many vegan animals (such as deer) eat their afterbirth, too. Think of it like this: is it ethical to chew and eat your own fingernails if you’re vegan? (Of course, the placenta is much more nutritious!).
Is placenta consumption… cannibalism?
No, consuming your own placenta isn’t considered cannibalism. Most dictionaries define cannibalism as the act of a person eating another person’s flesh, usually after they’re dead (i.e. sourced from a foreign body). Clearly this doesn’t apply to ingesting a medicine made within yourself. It is no more cannibalism than tasting your own breast milk.
Can you tell me about the condition of my placenta and any abnormalities?
Yes. I can provide assessment and documentation of your placenta’s condition during processing. These may include notable details on weight, size, variations, appearance, interesting “landmarks” and so on. I do not make diagnoses or claims of any medical conditions.
Where will the placenta be prepared?
The placenta will be prepared in my dedicated home workspace. On a case-by-case basis, processing may occur in the client’s home if mutually agreed-upon beforehand.
How does payment work?
You pay a deposit to reserve services, which is applied toward your total fee. The remaining balance is due by pick-up. I accept cash, check, Venmo, or PayPal (plus a small platform fee). Placenta prep for twins/triplets incurs an extra fee to cover additional supplies.
How many capsules do I receive?
The number of capsules yielded from your placenta depends on the preparation method and the placenta size, which varies between birth givers. Typical yield can range from 60-240+ capsules and lasts 4-8 weeks or longer, depending on dosage.
How does pickup work?
You’ll receive detailed instructions for pickup depending on your birth place, but I’ll offer a brief explanation below.
Birth Center / Home Birth:
Within 4 hours after birth, place your placenta into double-bagged gallon-sized Ziplocs; put this inside a cooler bag filled with ice or ice packs.
You should discuss this process with your care provider as early as possible in pregnancy as hospitals have differing protocols (i.e. “Consent to Release Products of Childbirth” paperwork may be required, or there may be a policy disallowing anyone other than the couple to remove it from the hospital). Do ensure that your wish to keep the placenta is noted on your Birth Plan. You are not obligated to state why you wish for your placenta to be released.
Within 4 hours after birth, place it into double-bagged gallon-sized Ziplocs; put this inside a cooler bag filled with ice or ice packs. Some hospitals provide an insulated container, but be prepared to bring your own.
You should ensure your placenta will not be held in pathology, which is common at some hospitals for a week or more (if so, you must request it be frozen — NOT refrigerated — while held in pathology). Please remind your provider to NOT treat your placenta with chemical preservatives such as formalin / formaldehyde.
How does drop-off work?
You may either pick up your items in 77494 zip code or I will drop off within my service range for no extra cost. An additional fee applies for deliveries outside my service range. We will agree on a delivery plan prior to placenta pick-up.
How long do I have to wait to receive my placenta products?
Time to completion depends on the items requested. For encapsulation, your pills will be returned within 2-4 days, barring extenuating circumstances. Details are described in your contract.
Is there a risk of me getting the wrong placenta returned to me?
No. I have a specific protocol for pickup and delivery, and your placenta remains in a labeled container until processing begins. I work on one placenta at a time, from start to finish. Placentas are prepared in the order they’re received. You can have confidence that I run my business with high integrity. I hold the utmost respect for my clients, their families, and of course their placentas.
What if you’re unavailable to pick up my placenta after birth?
A professional birth worker backup will be in place in the event that I’m attending a birth, etc.
What supplies do I need to provide for encapsulation?
You will be asked to provide a transportation kit. This includes a labeled cooler bag or styrofoam cooler with ice/ice packs and two gallon-sized freezer bags. These items are not guaranteed to be returned. Further detailed instructions will be given.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended as clinical, medical, or pharmaceutical advice or direction. It has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and has been made available for general educational purposes only. Neither I nor my business, Your Labor Neighbor LLC (YLN), claim to diagnose, treat, cure, or relieve any condition. The information provided by YLN regarding placentas and placenta remedies is based on specialized training, documented research, anecdotal experiences from placenta remedy users, and books. Those who opt to utilize YLN’s placenta encapsulation services, or other placenta preparations and remedies, will take full responsibility for their own health, research, and management of placenta remedy usage. All clients are encouraged to do their own research, with their personal medical history in mind, and to seek the opinion of their health care provider should a medical issue arise during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum. While I endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and correct, I make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or images contained on the website or in YLN correspondence for any purpose. Any reliance placed by a client on said information is therefore strictly at the client’s own risk.