I had my first son in a hospital in Chicago. It was 30 hours of pain, confusion and desperation. By the time I pushed him out and he pooped on the nurse’s arm, I had been floored by so many things that go on during labor and delivery. I figured I'd be handed my baby and instead, I was told I had to push the placenta out. It was a bit uncomfortable, nothing like labor itself, but I felt like, “Really? After all that and I need to push again? When will this saga end?!” I never saw the placenta, I assume it went into some dumpster of hospital waste with used needles and blood bags.
I took my son home and limped into new motherhood through dark places in my mind, a terrible breastfeeding experience and a traumatized vagina that just wouldn’t heal. I knew I wanted a different kind of birth experience the second time. By the time I was pregnant with my second son I was planning a homebirth, renting a birthing pool and hanging birth affirmations on my wall. My doula told me that she also offers placenta encapsulation if I was interested. Placenta encapsulation involves putting ground placenta that has been steamed and dehydrated into pills the mother can take as a supplement.
I spent time reading about it while practicing deep breathing so that I wouldn’t throw up in my mouth. If I thought too hard about it, I would gag. But something kept me coming back to reading and talking about it. The reported benefits are hard to ignore.
Of course, you won’t find any research on it. It’s all anecdotal, but you can find the practice throughout history. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelmingly positive. You won’t hear a single negative story from a person who chose to consume their placenta. Some women have said that they felt “speedy” if they took too much or that they would taste it when they burped. But I've never heard any reports of major negative side effects. The reported benefits include stabilizing hormones after birth, decreasing incidents of postpartum depression, increasing milk supply for breastfeeders, speeding up recovery time for Mom, fighting fatigue and replenishing Mom’s iron supply.
How did I get from gagging to popping placenta pills? Well, to be honest, I still gagged when I took the placenta pills. It was just the psychological aspect that I sometimes couldn’t shake. But three times a day for a couple of months I put my hand over my mouth with the pills and some orange juice inside and forced them down. And do you know what? I felt awesome. Three weeks postpartum, I breastfed sitting on a seesaw across from my first son.
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