Placenta Encapsulation

Lindsay Rose Dorff, Birth Doula

Placenta Encapsulation

Dear Ms. Goer,

I am a birth doula, currently training through DONA, and am curious about the increasingly popular trend of women having their placentas encapsulated. I know that enthusiasts claim benefits such as regulated hormone levels, more energy, fewer incidents of postpartum depression, and better milk supply, but when I've searched online, I tend to find more opinion pieces than hard science. Have you come across any scientific research about the benefits (or lack of benefits) of consuming the placenta?

Henci Goer

RE: Placenta Encapsulation
(in response to Lindsay Rose Dorff, Birth Doula)

I ran a search in PubMed, the U.S. National Library of Medicine database, and didn't come up with anything germane. This didn't surprise me because I didn't think placental encapsulation had reached the point where anyone would be conducting research on it yet. In any case, I think that for alternative treatments such as this, there should be a lower bar than "proven effective in experimental trials," namely, safety. If it is safe, then some women will find it helpful simply based on the placebo effect. So the question becomes: Is it safe? I can't think of a reason why it would be any less safe than eating, say, calf or chicken liver. The only danger I can think of is if it replaced more effective treatment, but I don't see that as a big issue either. Presumably if it wasn't helping, a woman would move on to more conventional therapies. Still, have any of the opinion pieces you have read discussed possible harms? 

~ Henci

Silvie Falschlunger, childbirth educator, doula

RE: Placenta Encapsulation
(in response to Henci Goer)

Dear Henci Goer:

 

I keep trying to find out if there are any adverse side effects of medication on the placenta (epidural, pitocin, antibiotics….) which would advise not to prepare the placenta for encapsulation. I keep trying to figure this out but can’t find any information. I recently talked to a midwife & her feedback was just to avoid encapsulation in case there is any infection.

 

Your input would be highly appreciated!

 

Thanks! silvie

Henci Goer

RE: Placenta Encapsulation
(in response to Silvie Falschlunger, childbirth educator, doula)

You make a good point about potential effects of meds used in labor ending up in the placenta. I don't think Pitocin (oxytocin) would be an issue because of its short half life, but I can't say about the others. Factors that would come into play would be how much would accumulate in the placenta, whether meds would be broken down during digestion, whether they would be absorbed, how much over what time period the woman would consume, and last, but not least, whether they posed any risk even if a meaningful dose were absorbed.

~ Henci

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