I’m Officially Opposed to Encapsulating Your Placenta Now

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Image courtesy of MIcaela Go.

When R was born, I wanted to see the placenta.  I asked about that in our birth class.  Everyone in the room thought I was weird for asking, “Can we see our placenta”.  Much to my husband’s dismay and horror, I did see it (and so did he).  I grew up with horses giving birth around me.  I have helped piece together placentas in stalls to ensure the safety of many mares.  They are definitely somewhat gross but also amazing.  A placenta supported the life I now hold in my arms and that now crawls around my living room making mayhem.  I thought it was so cool.  That was my work.  My husband was not on the same page.  He didn’t want to have pictures for posterity.  Still, I insisted I did not want to take it home with me.  I was not one to eat my placenta or bury it under a sapling or whatever people are doing.

You know I try to stop the judgement on here.  I don’t want to judge moms that do things different from me.  Still, I have to say, this fad of making pills out of your placenta is dangerous.  Seriously, ladies, you gotta stop it with these placenta capsules.

At first, I had friends who did it and I thought it was totally wacky.  I was mostly opposed to it for my own purposes because there is no empirical evidence that it works, no history showing that it does anything, and it’s expensive.  I’m really cheap.  But, in the vein of the good people at the Longest Shortest Time, there didn’t seem to be inherent harm in it.  The LST podcast was interesting to me and pretty much summarized a lot of my feelings on the subject.  Encapsulation or eating your placenta is a weird and unnecessary thing but it’s not hurting anyone so why bother saying anything about it?

Then, I wound up in a twilight zone of an online mommy group.  I’m still on there mostly because it’s entertaining and makes me realize that as much as I feel like I’m swimming underwater, I am still not one of those moms who makes everyone feel bad about every single life choice.  I know, I know, I’m a bad person.  I became really angry about placenta capsules over time because anytime a woman would talk about being depressed or being worried she had PPD, people would jump on a thread and tell her to avoid her doctor because apparently all OB’s want to put you on medications that are not breastfeeding friendly at the drop of a hat or even just put you on medication.  To anyone wondering, SSRI’s are really safe in most cases for breastfeeding, a good OB will make suggestions that work for you (in my case, medication was more important than anything else so it was an easy choice), and in many cases, talk therapy is really effective.  Another thing that would happen is a line of questioning about placenta pills.  These moms would shame the poster for not getting placenta pills and sometimes would even offer up their own or encourage her to seek some out.  This happened repeatedly.  I kid you not.

So, there was a strike even at that time but I really blamed the judgy moms. No, people, placenta pills are not shown to do anything.  They are NOT treatment for postpartum depression.  They will not make your ailments go away.

This week, however, new evidence came out against the pills.  Women are actually getting sick from taking them.  And if you do so, you are putting yourself at grave risk for a couple of issues.  First of all, taking them can put you and your baby at risk for a Group B Strep infection.  Remember that thing you had to swab around your butt for in your third trimester?  Yeah, the reason your doctor told you to do it is because GBS can actually kill your baby.  If you are GBS positive, you go on antibiotics during labor and everything should be fine.  However, if you encapsulate your placenta, you will continue to be exposed.  Thus, you can exposure your newborn to it via skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.  It also can raise your risk of blood clots due to increased estrogen (much like hormonal birth control).  If your doctor doesn’t know you are doing this, they can’t monitor your health or make suggestions.  Many of these women who want to practice encapsulation and have been sold on the “benefits” know doctors oppose the practice or choose to seek out non-medical professionals to avoid a lecture.  In reality, the practice is dangerous regardless of whether you omit it from your discussion of postpartum plans with your OB or midwife.

Now, the Association of Placenta Preparation Arts (yes, this cottage industry has a group that lobbies for the right to do this because there is money to be made on certifications) argues providers should not encapsulate placentas if a mom has an infection.  Still, the people who are doing these encapsulations don’t really have a professional code of ethics and they are in no way medical professionals.  APPA’s board includes no one with the right to give actual medical advice.  They are CPM’s and doulas (note: I am not knocking doulas, just stating that this doulas should not be using medical knowledge to determine risks of infection).  Likewise, if you go to a CPM, you are likely to go without a GBS test during your third trimester because you can refuse it.  While researching this post, it never occurred to me how commonly an infection could be missed but I guess if you aren’t seeing someone who has a medical background, this could fall through the cracks and actually be really dangerous.  And even if you got tested and determine you are positive, only medical professionals can prescribe medications.  So, those people who are most likely to advocate for such a practice are also most likely to put you and your baby at risk.

The only person who should be advocating you take supplements or determine what is a proper course of treatment for use is a medical professional – CNM’s, nurse practitioners, doctors.  And, yes, you really, really should be running supplements by your doctor because they should be treated like medicine.  Just because something is “all natural” does not make it safe.  Arsenic is natural.  It will also kill you.

So, please don’t encapsulate your placenta.  This practice doesn’t have any empirical evidence backing it which is why medical professionals have always been against it.  Your placenta doesn’t have any real abilities to heal you.  So, please don’t rely on it for mental or physical wellness.  And the practice can actually harm you and your baby.

So, just stop it.  Please.  For your own health and the health of your kid just stop it.  If you want to bury it under a tree, go ahead.  That seems weird to me but if it is meaningful to you, I will support you.  Still, stop eating your placenta.  It can actually make you really sick.

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