Recently we've had several mothers come into A Nurturing Moment asking about placenta encapsulation. Local doula Brittany Berghammer makes this service available to local moms, so we asked Brittany to give us some insight into this procedure that is quickly growing in popularity!
ANM: What exactly is placenta encapsulation?
Brittany: Encapsulation is the process by which the placenta is turned into small pills much like a regular vitamin that you would take daily. Usually the placenta is cleaned, then flash steamed with fresh warming plants (ginger root for one), dehydrated, and finally ground into a fine powder for pills.
What is the history behind it and how did you get interested in doing this?
It dates way back into the practice of old Chinese medicine, which happens to be the method I use. I got interested in doing this after my children were born, and I was looking for natural ways to cure baby blues and PPD since I suffered pretty badly. The first placenta I did actually came about as a quick split-second decision by one of my first doula clients . Since then I have done dozens of them. It has become really popular in the past months!
I use the Traditional Chinese Medicine Method (TCM). The thought process behind this is to warm the mother. You warm the placenta adding fresh ginger root and pepper while steaming the placenta before dehydration. Tradition is for a new Chinese mother to be kept warm, eating warm foods, covered in blankets etc. for the first month after the baby is born, so preparing the placenta ussing this method goes along those lines.
Why would a mother choose to have her placenta encapsulated?
If she is looking to have a natural way, made exactly for her with her very own hormones, to help with baby blues/PPD, help heal quickly after giving birth, help with milk supply, or even help her with energy levels this is the way to do it! I advise my moms if the pills make them too energetic not to take them near bed time!
You made your placenta with your own body, and your hormones are in it. So when you take it after birth in the pills, you are replacing what your body has just lost. It is made for you by you. It's your perfect 'medicine'!
Are there any legal or medical risks?
In the state of Alabama there are absolutely no legal risks. There is no law on any book saying the mother cannot have her placenta, and we know laws are only made to tell you something you cannot do. You are entitled to have it if you so should choose; some women plant theirs with a new tree for the new baby or even a rose bush !
Medical risks are minimal; there is always some chance, however small, of some kind of infection. It is not recommended that a mother with active HIV/AIDS encapsulate for that reason, but it has not really been studied. The only real problem I have ever read or heard about is the amount of energy - it's like drinking a lot of coffee. This is easily solved by cutting down the daily dose. Since it is made by your body you already have everything in the placenta in you to begin with.
Will hospitals let you do this?
Currently only Huntsville Hospital (and it's satellite hospitals) are allowing moms to keep the placenta. You used to be able to keep yours if you delivered at Crestwood, but very, very recently they have stopped allowing moms to have it. They have given me a number of reasons for this. The first reason they gave was that it is against state law so I looked it up: no such law. The second thing they said was that their waste management people told them they cannot release the placenta, so I called the waste management company. They told me they consider the placenta to be mom's property. Thirdly they said it was a thing the laywers told them to stop because of the risk of infection getting out, however small this risk is. I would love to have Crestwood open up to changing this policy, even having moms sign a simple waiver of liability for the release of the placenta. All the moms I have spoken to would be willing to do this. Nevertheless, Crestwood is not hearing any of this, and I feel I've reached a brick wall with them. If any mom out there wants to write their Labor and Delivery unit letters telling them that it's your placenta, and you want to have it, I would love you and give you free hugs!!