Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Placenta Encapsulation in North Alabama has a new face!

by April Opoka, Guest Blogger

After being away from AL for almost 15 years, I recently returned and, come to find out, I am the area’s first Full Circle Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and soon to be the first Full Circle Placenta Encapsulation Educator/Trainer (coming 2015)!

I am excited to offer these services to the mamas of Huntsville and surrounding areas for many reasons, but the whole reason I ever got involved with placenta encapsulation to begin with is that I suffered severe perinatal mood disorders starting at just 8 weeks gestation with my first child and lasting until well after I gave birth. If I had known then about placentophagy (ingesting your own placenta), I would have literally eaten my placenta right where I gave birth, not unlike other mammals. Yes, it was THAT bad!

What are the Benefits?

Benefits of Placentophagy include increasing milk supply, preventing or lessening the risk of "baby blues" or PPD, preventing post-birth anemia and minimizing blood loss, stabilizing hormones, replenishing B-vitamins, protecting from infection and bleeding due to retained placental tissue or membranes in the uterus, and natural pain relief from the labor and birth of baby. In addition, men can benefit from taking placenta pills as well, as the hormones contained within may help in bonding with the new baby. This would be particularly helpful in cases where the mother is unable to care for the new baby.

What Hormones are in the Placenta?

Hormones retained in the placenta include the following: 
Oxytocin - referred to as the "love hormone," this helps with bonding, pain relief, and happiness
Cortisone - combats stress
Interferon - stimulates the immune system
Prostaglandins - anti-inflammatory
Hemoglobin - stimulates iron production in the blood
Urokinase Inhibiting Factor and Factor XIII - lessens bleeding and promotes healing
Prolactin - stimulates milk production and healthy mammary function
POEF (Placental Opioid Enhancing Factor) - enhances opioid-analgesia so that there should be less need for pain medications post birth

What Questions Do I Need Answered?

Here are the answers to those questions you might not have even thought to ask...but need to!
·         So, what qualifies me to take your placenta and turn it into something palatable that could very well help you with symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, fatigue, boosting milk supply, etc.?
Well, that’s a loaded question. Do I just tell you about my training with Full Circle, the Bloodborne Pathogens for Doulas and Placenta Encapsulators certification, and the Alabama Food Handlers certification? Or do I back up, before I entered the land of unicorns (what I call mamas like me, and likely you, if you’re reading this) and tell you that I also have a professional degree in science/medicine and have had ongoing education, training and actual work experience in medical diagnostics, sterile technique, stem cell banking from umbilical cord blood, transfusion medicine, clinical trials management, and academic and pharmaceutical research, with previous employers including The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hospital, Duke University Medical Center, and numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies? You see, it’s all relevant. I firmly believe you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who adheres so closely to proper sanitation methods and pays such close attention to potential risks and issues such as cross contamination and infection. Yes, letting anyone encapsulate your placenta and return it to you for your consumption has risks, and a certain level of trust is placed in the person you choose for this important task. I believe I am able to not only earn your trust, but ease your mind that I will handle this task with the utmost care and attention to detail.
·         What are the laws in Alabama regarding placenta encapsulation?
Well, there actually are none. I can see the good and the bad in this. The good part is that there’s nothing saying you cannot possess your placenta and do with it what you wish, thus, there should be no good reason that any hospital should refuse you this right. However, there are hospitals that refuse you this right, and there is no law on paper saying they have to give it to you.
·         The number one question I’m asked is “What is the process?” So, basically, you want me to encapsulate your placenta. Now what?
It’s pretty simple on your part, but you really, REALLY should prepare the few things you need to prepare well in advance of your estimated due date in order to make things easier on you and me both, when the time comes. After all, who wants to worry with details while in labor, pushing, having just given birth, or on their babymoon? No one! The following is a run-down of the process:  
  1. Talk to/inform your care provider of your wishes to take your placenta with you.
  2.  Request a copy of your initial labwork, or prenatal panel test results from your care provider which show your lab results for Hepatitis, HIV, and Syphilis. This is a standard battery of tests that is run without most people even realizing it. Trust me, if you’re seeing an OB and you haven’t purposely opted out of this testing, it has been done. I will need to see a copy of these results before I will process your placenta on my equipment. Period. This is actually not for my protection, but for YOUR protection. This is one part of my process that gives mamas a bit more peace of mind. Nobody who has positive test results will have a placenta processed on my equipment!
  3. Complete the prenatal questionnaire and contract included in your welcome packet that will be emailed to you upon requesting my services. You may include your test results with this completed paperwork and your first payment and then mail it to me.
  4.  READ the welcome packet. It details things like handling and storage of the placenta after birth, whether vaginal or C-section (they are different), and what NOT to do. If you call to say you’ve given birth to your wonderful little bundle of joy, and you’re ready for me to pick up the placenta, but it’s in pathology and you have no idea if it has come in contact with cleaners, preservatives, or even worse, if it has been “switched at birth” with the other unicorn’s placenta down the hall who may or may not have an encapsulation specialist that is dutiful about requiring STD results, that’s a problem. This shouldn’t just worry me, but it should really worry you. Please don’t let the placenta out of your or your designated person’s sight. Keep it in a hard-sided cooler, on ice, in your room until you can put it in your own refrigerator. Freezing is not ideal and I don’t recommend this unless processing will be delayed, for whatever reason, beyond 3 days post birth.
  5. Gather what you need to carry with you to the birthing place: 2 Ziploc bags, one labeled with your name and phone number, and a hard-sided cooler, along with anything you haven’t already given to me (paperwork and/or final payment) in an envelope.
  6. Give me a courtesy call when you’re in early or active labor so I can plan. Then, CALL me so I can come get the placenta and get straight to work. I pick up placentas from sun up to sun down. If you should happen to give birth in the middle of the night, please call first thing the next morning.
  7. If you gave birth in a hospital, I will meet your designated person outside the entrance of the birth center and transfer the placenta to my cooler unless we make other arrangements ahead of time.
  8. If you had a doula and she and I have a placenta agreement in place, you may let her take the placenta and I will get it from her.
  9. I will process your placenta, usually in less than 48 hours, depending on blood/fluid content, weight, thickness, etc., and return your placenta preparation(s) to you, at your home or at the hospital, promptly.
  10. All preparations come with instructions and indications for use, as well as an open invitation to call me anytime you have questions or concerns, even if you’re a year or more postpartum.
·         What placenta services are available?
Basically anything you want! I can do Raw preparation, Traditional Chinese Method inspired preparation (with or without herbs), ½ Raw and ½ TCM(i), Tinctures, Salves, Smoothies, Prints, Cord Keepsakes, etc.
·         How much does it cost and how do I contact you?
For current prices and descriptions of services offered, please see the Placenta Services portion of my website at www.branchingoutadvocates.com. You may also contact me through the contact form on the website, or for immediate assistance, you may call me at 256-333-0504.

I’m truly passionate about serving mamas through their birthing years and I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about any of the services I offer. Please give me a call, email, or check out my website for more information. New things are coming in 2015, like the area’s first offering of hands on placenta encapsulation training, and Birth Reclamation Ceremonies.

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