Why this podcast?
Ever since I wrote the post Preparing Your Mindset for Birth, I have known that I wanted to come back to this podcast. The host, Alexia Leachman, is a therapist, speaker and pregnancy coach who has overcome tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy and childbirth.
As a doula, I have learned how much fear and anxiety can interfere with birth. For those women who have tokophobia, this is a much greater fear than the usual anxiety and doubts that can lurk in the back of our minds.
I think it’s both amazing and incredibly important that Alexia has not only overcome this but has gone on to host a podcast aimed at supporting others with this fear and helping them to overcome it.
You probably know by now that I’m not a fan of repeating myself so if you would like a few more details on this podcast please have a look at the post I linked to above.
How does it look?
With episodes generally lasting forty-five minutes to an hour and released each week, The Fear Free Childbirth Podcast is a great mix of real life, positive birth stories, wisdom from birthing professionals and tips for reducing your fears around pregnancy and birth.
Alexia has covered areas including essential oils in pregnancy, recurrent miscarriage, expecting multiples, when your birth fears come true, cord clamping and why the ‘winging it’ birth plan sucks.
Why this episode?
Placenta encapsulation, where the placenta is dried, made into a powder and then put into capsules, is fairly new but something that seems to be growing in popularity. There are other ways to consume your placenta but this one seems to be the most socially acceptable.
It’s a subject that still holds a fair bit of mystery and is pretty fascinating so I was intrigued by this episode.
Who should listen to this episode?
Anyone who is interested in the idea of consuming their placenta or anyone for whom this idea is totally new.
This episode features two placenta experts, Maria Pokluda and Maryn Taylor, who are based in the U.S. Maria is a doula and about five years ago started doing placenta encapsulation as she saw that many of her clients were choosing to encapsulate their placentas but that there wasn’t a sound way to do this in her area.
Maryn runs a birth pool sales and rental business. When she went to collect the pools after birth she would often see that ‘call the placenta encapsulator’ was on the to-do list. She figured why not kill two birds with one stone and so learnt how to do placenta encapsulation and teamed up with Maria.
Between them, they have prepared over eleven hundred placentas.
What are the ways that you can consume your placenta?
You can consume it in any way you like but probably the two most common ways are:
Placenta pills or capsules and placenta smoothie.
Maryn and Maria focus on these two methods of preparation.
So, what are the benefits of eating your placenta?
Women who have consumed their placenta, in one way or another, cite benefits such as:
– More breastmilk
– More energy
– More balanced feelings &
– Less moodiness
Where’s the evidence?
Well, unfortunately, there has not been a great deal of research on consuming your placenta so scientific evidence is lacking. Alexia did link to this article which mentions that placental blood is rich in regenerative stem cells and has thus been used in the treatment of blood cancers such as leukaemia, blood disorders like sickle cell anaemia and metabolic disorders. They have also been used by cosmetic companies.
Perhaps you are not sure you want to eat placenta but it is possible you have been putting it on your skin for years.
A quick internet search will bring up a whole heap of anecdotal evidence for consuming your placenta. Women talk about the benefits above but also about recovering faster from the birth, having more iron and having less postpartum depression.
Those don’t seem like things to dismiss.
How does placenta encapsulation look?
Maria and Maryn (or whoever you hire to do your placenta encapsulation) will collect your placenta from wherever you gave birth, dry it, make it into a powder and then use that powder to fill capsules or make placenta pills. What you receive will look like any vitamins or herbal supplements you may have used before.
This process takes about forty-eight hours from the time they collect your placenta.
Maria and Maryn also offer a service where they take a piece of the placenta, blend it and freeze it into small cubes. You can then throw these into your smoothie.
This may be a better option than tossing in chunks of raw placenta if you are bothered by the ick factor.
I really liked the fact that Alexia asked this question. Maria and Maryn mention that many of their clients have had children and can, therefore, compare a postpartum period without placenta pills to one with and really feel that there are differences.
But what about first-time mums who report these benefits? Couldn’t this just be a placebo effect? They believe that taking placenta capsules will give them more energy or help them to feel more balanced and so that’s what happens.
I loved the fact that Marie and Maryn didn’t try to avoid this question. Instead, they gave a beautiful answer:
Mothers are coming to them concerned about how they might feel after their birth. They are listened to and respected and their concern is addressed in a real and practical way.
Their feelings are honoured and respected.
Maybe being listened to and validated in this way is just as important as the pills themselves.
How long do I take them for?
Usually, a placenta will yield enough pills to last for about six weeks. Some women request that a tincture be made that will last for the rest of their lives and they can turn to this when they are feeling low, experiencing premenstrual tension or even when going through the menopause.
Are there rules about encapsulating a placenta?
This will depend hugely on where you live. The first thing to check, especially if you are planning to give birth in a hospital, is whether you have the right to keep your placenta. It would also be wise to inform the hospital, or midwife in the case of home birth, of your plans in advance.
Choose your encapsulator carefully
In the U.S. there are no set qualifications, anyone can set themselves up as a placenta encapsulator. The rules about this will vary according to where you live but it is important to find someone who has been trained and certified in placenta encapsulation. Their training should have included elements such as food safety, hygiene and training in bloodborne pathogens.
Maria and Maryn suggest looking at what a few certified encapsulators in your area are charging and avoiding anyone who is charging way less than that.
Other placenta traditions
The episode goes on to discuss traditions such as burying your placenta, planting a tree on the burial site and umbilical cord art.
To wrap up
Whilst there is little scientific evidence about the benefits of consuming your placenta that doesn’t mean that those benefits are not there. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are real and important reasons to consider consuming your placenta.
At the same time, the lack of evidence about the benefits also means we lack scientific information about possible risks. On the surface, it seems safe and there don’t appear to be any stories of things going awry, but it is vital to ensure that your placenta is deemed to be healthy before you consume it and that it is stored and prepared safely.
On a personal note – no, sorry, I didn’t eat any of my placentas – but I did briefly look into certifying as a placenta encapsulator. I have to say it was way more involved and complex than I had thought and I decided it was not something I wanted to take on at that time.
My point is that finding someone who is certified is so, so important. That person will have undergone some pretty intense training and when you are talking about trusting someone to prepare your placenta for consumption, that’s vital.
I would love to hear from anyone who has consumed their placenta in one way or another.
In what form did you consume it?
What benefits, if any, did you experience?
Were there any negative side effects?
Would you do it again?
Other episodes on this topic
The Pregnancy Podcast – Placenta Encapsulation
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.