Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Pioneering Placenta

I sincerely hope that the following is educational and intriguing... much more than gruesome and weird. However, if you have a weak stomach when it comes to blood or organs, read no more.

Placentophagia is the practice of consuming ones own placenta following a birth. Fundamentally, it is a tradition carried on by most mammals (yeah yeah, I know animals also eat their own poo). I'm not suggesting that we, as humans should follow examples set by animals, as that could get strange real fast. In addition to animals, many people groups around the world practice placentophagia. In countries where modern medicine is not readily available, women have relied on the benefits of consuming their placenta to relieve mood imbalance, excessive bleeding, and anemia following birth.

Placentophagia is absolutely still considered a fringe practice here in the United States, yet is gaining more popularity as women are looking to more natural methods for relieving postpartum issues without jeopardizing breastfeeding or committing to invasive, pharmaceutical treatments. Most often, women who participate in placentaphogia are simply looking to maximize their postpartum experience by boosting energy levels and warding off infirmities or depression.

I get it. Many are baffled that a woman would voluntarily eat her own placenta. To some this sounds more like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Hoping that the placenta in its truest form will provide the greatest benefit, some women opt to "enjoy" a placenta smoothie, perhaps made with blueberries and orange juice. For those who can't stomach it raw, there is a modernized version of this tasty treat. Placenta encapsulation. The placenta is dehydrated (similar to beef jerky), ground, and then put into capsule form to be taken easily and tastelessly by the mother.

Following my birth with Grace Louise, I had my placenta encapsulated by some friends who were trying to get their feet wet in offering this service. After having such a positive experience myself, I decided to offer this service to other women in the area.

The pictures below tell the story of my first placenta encapsulation.

11 hours after the birth, I picked up the placenta from the hospital. The mom simply signed a release form and kept the placenta in this cooler on ice until I got there. This was the first placenta request at The Regency in Winter Haven. This mom was a pioneer. I love that I was able to be a part of that!

"Biohazard". The organ that gave life to the baby for 9 months is now in a biohazard bag. A Publix bag would have been more appropriate. Nevertheless, here is the placenta safely packaged for the car ride.

I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of safety when it comes to being exposed to someone else's blood. I wore gloves for every step of the process, used equipment bought specifically for this service, and disinfected before and after the process.

"Hi Placenta! Welcome to my home."

This is the fetal side of the placenta- smooth and shiny with a healthy umbillical cord securely attached.

Mini-anatomy lesson: The placenta, with its liberal amount of blood vessels, transports nourishment and oxygen through the umbillical cord to the fetus. It also produces hormones needed to sustain the pregnancy and serves as a transporter of waste. Weighs 1-2lbs.

I heart babies. I heart mamas. I heart birth. I heart placentas. I heart umbillical cords too.

The side of the placenta that is attached to the uterus is where mother's blood circulates. Rough in appearance with some blood clots which were gently removed for encapsulation.
After the membrane surrounding the placenta was removed, the placenta was rinsed and blended. Mother's who choose can have their placenta steamed before drying. The ancient chinese medicine method is to steam with lemon and ginger. There is no indication that either method is superior.

Placenta smoothie minus the blueberries and orange juice.

The placenta is then spread evenly onto a fruit-leather sheet and dehydrated.

The drying process took about 9 hours on the medium setting of this Nesco American Harvester Deyhdrator.

Preparing for encapsulation usign the Cap-M-Quik machine.

I ended up turning the placenta over the last hour for more even drying. Once dried, the placenta was cut into smaller pieces and ground into a powder. (The only part of the process that smelled at all).

The encapsulation machine is pretty basic, but still involves some meticulous hand labor. Each geletin capsule is broken apart, the bottoms inserted the holes. The bottom portion of the capsules are filled, tampered to make more room, and then filled again. The guard on the capsule machine is lowered, allowing the top portion of the capsule to be applied. This part of the process took 2 hours.

195 "happy" placenta pills ready to be delivered.


Ali said...

I love it! Your pics really turned out nice, too. Be proud and confident that you are doing a service that will prove so helpful to new moms!

Joy said...

Thank you for sharing. You are such a blessing. I hope you can dry mine one day :)

The Hursts said...

Joy, I would be honored to handle your placenta one day!

Keturah said...

Hi I am looking for someone to do this following our son's birth around late June. If you are still providing this service please contact me!

The Hursts said...

Keturah- Yes! Feel free to email me...

Celeste-Starr said...

I have always been interested in doing this for myself when I have children. Thanks for the detailed photos and instructions It makes sense to me, I mean, all other animals eat it for good reason as well :)

Catherine_P said...

I was told that this was a great way to keep from experiencing baby blues. I had really bad baby blues with my first and now that I am pregnant again I have been looking into this. It looks like it costs around $300? to have it done. But the cost isn't what concerns me as much as the fact that it's going somewhere and you get it back hoping it is in fact YOUR placenta!!!! Yuck.... So, this makes me feel like I can do it myself (maybe enlisting my mom's help)! I am excited! Just ordered the capsule filler. Thank you for showing how to do this step by step!