Placenta Encapsulation: The Risk of Placenta Pills

Placenta Encapsulation: The Risk of Placenta Pills

New mamas-to-be have a plethora of decisions to make, from potential baby names to birthing plans and postpartum nutrition.

And in the world of mama trends, placenta encapsulation has fast been added to the list of possibilities.

But this process is not without serious controversy—and good reason too. 🤔

We know the absolute importance of expecting moms being involved with the decision-making in their maternity care and how hard this can be.

Advocating for yourself is tough in medical settings.

So, if you’re unfamiliar with this topic or are curious about its pros and cons, our expert guide is here to shed light on this popular practice. 👩‍⚕️

What are the benefits of placenta encapsulation? And do the benefits outweigh the risks?

We tackle it all.

Table of Contents 📝

  • What is the placenta?
  • What is placenta encapsulation?
  • Why placenta encapsulation?
  • Placenta encapsulation benefits
  • Placenta encapsulation risks
  • Final thoughts: Does placenta encapsulation really work?

What is the placenta?

The placenta is a spectacular disc-shaped organ that forms during pregnancy along with your baby, playing a critical role in supporting their growth and development.

It’s responsible for what goes both in and out of your little peanut as they develop in your womb. 🥜

Incoming: nutrition and oxygen

Outgoing: waste

As well as being a protective filter, it’s also an endocrine organ, producing hormones crucial for sustaining pregnancy and baby’s development.

And where do you find this multifunctional organ?

The placenta is attached to the wall of your uterus during pregnancy, its exact position varying from person to person.

This can include posterior placenta (where it’s attached closer to the spine) and anterior placenta (the front wall of the uterus).

From its chosen home, the placenta uses the umbilical cord as the pathway for oxygenated blood to flow into your baby and deoxygenated blood to flow out.

At the end of pregnancy, the placenta’s watch has ended, and it makes its exit, following hot on the heels of your newlyborn baby (the afterbirth).

What is placenta encapsulation?

Simpy put, placenta encapsulation involves popping your placenta into placenta capsules for you to consume.

Before being made into placenta pills, the placenta is steamed, dried, and ground into a digestible form.

There are other ways to consume your placenta post-birth, but this seems to be the one that has gained the most traction lately.

How to turn placenta into pills

While the process might sound straightforward, it requires specific knowledge and hygiene practices.

A trained professional will typically handle the steps—cleaning, steaming (or not, depending on the method), drying, grinding, and finally encapsulating.

Through it all, it’s crucial they ensure proper storage and processing to maintain the placenta’s integrity.

How much does placenta encapsulation cost?

If you pay someone to encapsulate your placenta, you can expect to pay between $200 and $500.

The DIY route is risky and time-consuming—plus, you have to get the equipment to dry your placenta and pop it into consumable capsule form.

As expensive as professional encapsulation fees can be, it’s best to be careful around low-cost alternatives as they may not have the right equipment to encapsulate your placenta safely.

Does insurance cover placenta encapsulation?

In some cases (not all!), yes, your insurance may reimburse you for placenta encapsulation, especially if you have a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA).

Still, placenta encapsulation is not considered a necessary medical service, so it’s best to contact your insurance provider directly.

Your policy may offer coverage for holistic therapies, which placenta encapsulation could fall under.

Why placenta encapsulation?

So, why do people eat their placenta?

Well, placentophagy (eating the placenta) is a maternal behavior not entirely uncommon in the animal kingdom—even dogs do it.

Although, in that case, it’s theorized to be more about protecting newborns from predators than boosting their health.

Some research suggests a number of benefits for non-human moms such as promoting care-taking behavior and suppressing postpartum phantom pregnancy (and the behavioral issues this brings in female dogs).

Others theorize that some mammals may even eat the afterbirth to relieve birthing pain.

But whether humans can enjoy similar benefits is debatable and uncertain.

Especially since most non-human mammals have entirely different reproductive systems.

Historically, eating placenta has been traced back to ancient traditional Chinese medicine, where it was also prescribed for chronic cough and male sexual dysfunction.

Today, proponents in North America argue it can aid in postpartum recovery by potentially reducing depressive symptoms, increasing energy, and promoting milk production.

However, the evidence is just not there, so it’s essential to approach these claims with a balanced view (and guided by medical experts).

Do all hospitals let you keep your placenta?

Typically, the placenta is considered to be medical waste and, unless outright requested, is disposed of as such.

Now, with recent medical warnings, physicians are advised to [discourage the practice of placentophagy entirely.

You can find more about these risks and warnings further below.

Placenta encapsulation benefits

So, is this practice of turning the placenta into pills really as beneficial as it claims to be?

Well, a large reason this practice is gaining popularity is that the placenta is packed with micronutrients.

And it’s because of this cocktail of B vitamins and iron that placenta encapsulation is touted as a means to:

Still, we need to exercise caution.

“There is very little scientific research carried out on placenta encapsulation,” explains HCPC specialist Biomedical scientist (and women’s health correspondent) Kellie Leonard, “all of these claims are self-reported.”

“In fact, in 2015, a case study concluded that no scientific evidence was found in relation to any potential health benefits of placenta consumption in any form, even within animal species.”

At best, we can say that any perceived encapsulated placenta benefits are more the result of a placebo effect.

And while Peanut is for supporting women at every life stage to make the decision that best works for them, placenta encapsulation is not without its risks.

Placenta encapsulation risks

Not only is the science still out on the benefits, but placenta encapsulation may also pose some risks to you and your newborn:

Possibility of contamination

This is the main risk of placenta encapsulation and one that has fast become a big issue.

This is because the process used to turn placenta into pills does not get rid of dangerous pathogens.

Ultimately your placenta is a raw organ that doesn’t have much to protect it from bacteria and viruses.

The result? Infections that can harm you—and your baby, if you’re breastfeeding.

This is such a clear and pressing concern that The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning against the consumption of placental capsules following a 2016 case report.

“The warning was prompted by an influx of newborns developing bacterial infections,” explains Leonard, “leaving them in critical condition.”

“The mother’s breast milk was thought to be infected with bacteria after the ingestion of placental capsules, which traveled into the infant’s bloodstream.”

“And the bacteria in question? The Group B Streptococcus, which can lead to the development of meningitis if found within the infant’s bloodstream in the first three months of life.”

And, of course, this is made all the more serious by the fact that infants are more at risk of this life-threatening disease because of their underdeveloped immune systems.

Running low on milk

While placenta encapsulation is often praised for improving milk supply, there isn’t much on the scientific front to back this up.

In fact, it can sometimes have the opposite effect.

Your placenta contains progesterone, and while this hormone is really useful during pregnancy, it can actually end up blocking the hormone responsible for milk supply (prolactin).

Dizziness, headaches, and stomach upsets

Some reported side effects of eating placenta included headaches and an unpleasant smell or taste.

Other women have experienced jitteriness, nausea, dizziness, and stomach upset.

Definitely the last thing you need when you’ve got a newborn on your hands.

Final thoughts: Does placenta encapsulation really work?

Research on the effectiveness and safety of placenta consumption is ongoing.

But as it stands now, the CDC is strongly against it, and any healthcare provider will be inclined to agree.

The risks to baby are simply far too high.

If you’re still really intrigued, there’s no harm in asking the mamas of Peanut if they’ve tried it.

Whatever route you go, know that the postpartum period can be tough no matter what you do to ease the strain.

Postpartum recovery takes time, and postpartum complications and depression are very real risks.

Placenta pills may not be the solution you hoped for, but assembling a strong support network can be.

Meet yourself where you’re at.

And try where you can to indulge in some quality self-care.

You’ve got this.

And we’ve got you. 🫶


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