Have you heard of placentophagy? It's a big word and one you may not have heard before. It means the act of consuming one's own placenta.
That's right - it's the word used for placenta consumption.
But why do postpartum mothers chose to ingest their placentas? This three-part blog series will explain the ins and outs of placenta consumption and answer that question.
- Part One will discuss the potential benefits and why women choose placenta consumption.
- Part Two will explain the process of placenta encapsulation and the differences between Traditional Chinese Method and raw encapsulation.
- Part Three will provide you with questions to ask your placenta encapsulator and explain how Motherline's encapsulation process sets us apart from the competition.
Part One: The Benefits*
(*All benefits discussed below are potential benefits of placenta encapsulation, not guaranteed results. The benefits of placenta encapsulation have not been reviewed by the FDA.)
So why would a new mother choose to eat her own placenta? In part one of our placenta encapsulation blog series, we will list the top 5 benefits many women experience with placentophagy.
1. Balanced Hormones and Improved Postpartum Mood
One of the most common reasons women consider placenta encapsulation is to reduce the emotional roller-coaster of hormones they experience following birth. During labor and delivery, women's bodies release a tremendous amount of hormones, such as oxytocin, endorphins, prolactin, and more. Following the birth of the baby and the placenta, that surge of hormones will peak and then crash. As your body adjusts to it's new postpartum state, your postpartum hormones will also need to adjust.
Enter the placenta. In a 2013 survey from the University of Nevada, 43% of women reported that they chose placenta consumption to improve their postpartum mood and balance their post-birth hormones. The same hormones that are released during labor - oxytocin, prolactin, and more - are found in the placenta. By ingesting these hormones and the placenta after delivery, many moms find that they feel better balanced hormonally and are less inclined to feel postpartum "baby blues."
2. Increased Energy and Faster Postpartum Recovery
Another popular reason women choose placenta encapsulation is for increased energy levels following birth. Let's face it - the postpartum time can be challenging and exhausting. Many moms are breastfeeding around the clock or, if bottle-feeding, preparing and washing bottles and feeding babies all day and night. Combine this with sleepless nights that involve constant baby soothing and new parents are often left feeling completely run-down.
Many moms choose placenta consumption to give their energy levels a boost. The placenta contains thyroid stimulating hormones as well as increased iron, both of which are great for boosting energy and reducing stress. These hormones can give tired moms a much-needed jolt of energy and help her feel less exhausted. This is why many women who have ingested their placentas report higher energy levels and, in turn, a quicker postpartum recovery time.
3. Shortened Postpartum Bleeding
After delivery, new mothers’ bodies go through a myriad number of changes – including diaphoresis (profuse sweating), involution (contractions of the uterus as it returns to its pre-pregnant size), and lochia (vaginal discharge of blood, mucous, and uterine tissue). Lochia can last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks postpartum and at times can bring pretty heavy bleeding.
Considering everything else going on postpartum, many women choose to ingest their placentas to help shorten the frequency and intensity of postpartum bleeding. Providers who have studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the benefits of placenta encapsulation according to TCM, recommend placentophagy to their patients to potentially help with postpartum bleeding. (Lang, Raven. Midwifery Today E-News July 2004). Anything women can do to improve their postpartum recovery is welcomed.
4. Increased Postpartum Iron Levels and Restoration of Other Nutrients
There are many women who suffer from anemia both prenatally and postpartum. Especially considering how much blood the body is losing following birth, iron deficiency can be a real concern for some new mothers.
The placenta contains iron and hemoglobins, both of which can replenish iron stores and help combat anemia. (Research Studies Supporting Placenta Encapsulation, PlacentaWise, http://www.placentawise.com/research-studies-supporting-placenta-encapsulation/) Iron deficiency can be a contributing factor to fatigue, so this added iron boost from the placenta can also help with increased energy levels and potentially decrease the risk of postpartum mood disorders, which can be brought on by fatigue and exhaustion.
5. Increased Milk Supply
Finally, placenta consumption can potentially increase milk supply for new mothers. As mentioned earlier, the placenta contains numerous beneficial hormones, including prolactin, oxytocin, and human placental lactogen (hPL), all of which can help to promote milk production.
An interesting study from the 1950s points in the direction of increased milk supply for women who consume their placentas. (Placenta as a Lactagogon, Soykova-Pachnerova, E., et. al (1954)) In this study, a group of over 200 women identified to have low supply or breastmilk production problems were divided into a placenta group and a placebo group. The placenta group was given dried placenta for consumption while the placebo group was given animal jerky. The study found an 86% increase in milk supply in the placenta group compared to the placebo group. While this study certainly contains flaws (for example, why were these women believed to have production issues?), the findings are still significant.
So there you have it. The top 5 reasons why women choose to consume their placentas.
Many women find placentophagy to be a valuable addition to their postpartum recovery and are choosing placenta consumption for the potential benefits of balanced hormones, increased energy, shortened postpartum bleeding, replenished iron, and increased milk supply.
In the next part of our placenta encapsulation blog series, we will discuss the various methods of encapsulation and answer questions on the encapsulation process. Stay tuned.