Placenta Encapsulation – Is It Right For You?

Placenta Encapsulation is one way you can continue to use your placenta after the birth of your baby. If you are like many people giving birth in the Chicago area, you may be surprised you are even considering doing ANYTHING with your placenta – but being pregnant can change a lot of things, including one’s curiosity for, perhaps previously uninteresting ideas.  

The placenta is an incredibly important organ. It filters, nourishes, and is your baby’s lifeline until being born. It is also an important generator of hormones that impact you, the pregnant person. The organ is known to produce prostaglandin, which helps the uterus contract after birth, and oxytocin, the hormone that enables secure bonding connections and love feelings, and much more. Another placental hormone that is connected to wellbeing is a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is linked to stress reduction and is usually housed in the hypothalamus. However, during pregnancy, large amounts of CRH are produced by the placenta.  

While there is little scientific study or evidence to support placenta encapsulation, there is a strong history of anecdotal success. Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners use the placenta as a medicine to balance out “the extremely yin or cold state of the postpartum period into a more yang or warm state,” says Heng Ou, author of The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.  

Placenta consumption has been in use publicly in the US since the 1980s (and before, but privately) when American women started talking about their choices and experiences. Since that time, there has been a sharp increase in popularity and increased options for consumption.  

Some prefer to consume the placenta raw in small amounts, like a smoothie to help cover the texture and taste. Encapsulation is now popular for its easy-to-take form of pills that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until gone.  

Encapsulation is the form of processing we specialize in at Holistic Family Doulas. We prepare your placenta with steam before dehydrating. Then, we grind the placenta into a powder that we measure into pills. We do this for ease and to help reduce the risk associated with bacteria and bloodborne pathogens.  

 

Some Reasons To Consider Placenta Encapsulation: 

Not everyone has the same reasons for choosing placenta encapsulation. What we know from serving Chicago families is they are interested in this service mostly for benefits in milk production, energy, and postpartum mood disorders. 

There is some reason to believe that by taking placenta supplements after birth in a gradually decreasing way, your body can benefit from the hormones that are thought to remain in the placenta. Along with them, your body does the work to start reproducing these hormones naturally again. This same gradual method of consumption is also connected to mood stabilization. 

While there is no guarantee you will respond in the positive ways others have when taking placenta supplements, the investment in using this postpartum healing tool is worth any possible gain. At the same time, any adverse side effects can be ended quickly by merely stopping any further use of the pills. However, if you have a difficult postpartum recovery, you can not go back and generate another placenta. There is a short window to decide to save your placenta.

 

Some questions you may ask: 

If you are at all interested in placenta encapsulation, finding a reputable placenta specialist is important. This industry is not regulated and does not have standard guidelines that need to be followed. If only for that reason, it is good to have a conversation with the person who will be handling your placenta and make sure they have the training and experience to safely treat the placenta. 

  • Where did you train as a placenta encapsulator? 
  • Have you taken a bloodborne pathogen safety class?
  • What personal protection equipment (PPE) do you wear when encapsulating?
  • How do you reduce cross-contamination between clients? 
  • How do you want me to communicate once I’m in labor?
  • What do I need to do after the placenta is born, but before you start encapsulating?

 

Possible negative experiences and risks associated with taking placenta pills: 

It is wise to mention that some have had adverse reactions to taking placenta pills. Even if in a capsule, there is still the possibility of an unpleasant taste. For this consider taking the pills with orange juice to neutralize the flavor, and have the additional benefit vitamin C

There are risks if your placenta specialist isn’t aware that some placentas should not be serviced. If an intrauterine infection occurs before or during labor, that placenta should not be encapsulated. While steaming does eliminate the bacteria that comes in contact with the outermost layers of the placenta, a placenta is rich with blood and consuming the pills from an infected placenta causes risk or re-infection. That risk extends to your infant if you are breastfeeding. This risk should be discussed before encapsulation ever begins. If information of infection is shared with us, Holistic Family Doulas will not produce pills from this placenta. 

And while many people take placenta pills to help with milk supply, some people are affected adversely, and their milk supply suffers a drop. The placenta has traces of progesterone, which negatively impacts your body’s ability to produce prolactin, a necessary hormone for milk production. 

What are the outward signs you should stop taking pills? 

  • fever
  • headache
  • cold or flu-like symptoms
  • or just feeling “worse” when you take them

 

What you get besides pills when you work with Holistic Family Doulas

One of the perks of working with us is we have experience and knowledge of the postpartum healing period and not just encapsulation services. When you work with us, we are bringing all of our expertise to our interactions. We can help with early healing questions, your newborn’s behavior insight, or help with knowing what is normal and expected. But more so than the information we have is our desire to help you be cared for thoroughly. We appreciate the care and consideration you take when looking for a placenta specialist, and we honor that trust with every part of our process. 

Is placenta encapsulation for you? That is a question only you can answer. The placenta will have already done an incredible amount of work once it comes time to store it for processing. We know placenta encapsulation is only ONE way to honor you and your incredible body. 

The Importance of Poop

With so few ways for your baby to communicate, any information can be the focus of a parent’s attention.   Which is why poop becomes such a big deal!   But very few people find poop interesting. So when parenthood comes, it is an unnerving and disgusting process to be initiated into the world of this topic.

After the bewilderment, there are some comic elements to having so many conversations about poop. Bathroom humor is said to be the lowest form of fun, but it is universal – if you have a baby, you have to laugh with the sheer disregard of their farts, poops, spit-ups, and belches. They are little noise machines! And even more comical, is the point that you are excited about those sounds!

Proof of a well functioning digestive system can get taken for granted. Any parent who has worried about constipation its horrible side effects are not embarrassed by their excitement for loud and rolling diaper deposits. The alternative is a stopped-up baby in pain, who can’t get comfortable, and probably isn’t sleeping. All that matters is helping them get through until they can find some relief.

So what are we talking about when we mean a well functioning digestive system? It’s the frequency and consistency of your child’s excretion is in the normal range for their age.

Most first time parents don’t know what is normal for a newborn, and sometimes normal poops can cause a bit of concern.

Poop Changes The First Week:

Day 1

On the day your baby is born, their digestion track is getting a wake-up call. All waste is removed through the placenta while in utero. Day one is the beginning of their bowels waking up and working out. Sometimes a baby poops while in the uterus. This is called meconium.

The first poop your baby excretes is thick, blackish in color, and a very hard to clean off their little buns. This first kind of poop has acted as a plug, and now that your baby is born and hopefully taking food by mouth, the first few poops will be resting in their body as they were growing.

Day 3-4

At this point in your child’s life, their poop will have noticeably changed from black to a dark green color. This is a healthy transition, and proof their body is taking in nutrition. If your baby is being fed by your body, this is also the time when it is common for mature breastmilk to come in and replace colostrum.

Day 4-5

By this point, your child’s poop will have turned to a yellow color, regardless if they are fed breastmilk or formula. Some formulas will result in a deep mustard color, which is also normal. The consistency can range from a seedy texture to more watery.

When keeping your baby’s diaper diary, it can be confusing if you should “count” a poop as a poop. As in, a minimal amount of poo is present but is visible. A general rule most providers follow is any bowel movement larger than a quarter “counts.” Breastfed babies will generally make 3-4 poopy diapers every day.

Other diaper findings:

In the first day or two, it is normal to find orange or red color in a baby’s urine. Sometimes some crystals work their way through the system, and it irritates the vessels along the way.  Orange or red appearances in your baby’s stool are not regular and can indicate illness, injury, or an allergy, and you should call your doctor.

Sometimes, a baby’s stool will turn the color depending on the variance of their diet. This is more common after solid foods are a part of their diet. It is usual for stool consistency and color to change with the introduction of solid food. If there has not been a shift in diet, a change in stool color can be a sign of an allergic reaction.

If your baby is not pooping, it can be a cause for concern. Some ways to help your baby is to gently stretch their legs back and forth, “pedaling” them from a straight position to bent. You can also rub their tummy in a clockwise direction to help stimulate their bowels externally to help waste move through. Sometimes giving your baby a warm bath can help their muscles relax enough to allow a bowel movement. Gripe water can be helpful, or gas drops, such as Mylicon, if the other suggestions produce no results.

If the above options don’t help and your baby is still struggling, consult your doctor and ask about alternatives.  It could be as simple as offering some food high in fiber if your baby is at a healthy stage. It could also be something more serious. Long term constipation can result in fecal impaction, which is incredibly uncomfortable and may require help to remove the impacted stool.

First Weeks Home After Birth During a Pandemic

Walking through your door after making the drive home from the hospital is a surreal moment. You did it. You had a baby! 

Now what? 

First things first, take a breath. 

Two people are healing from birth, you and your baby. Your priorities feel like they shift from moment to moment, depending on who is awake and who is unhappy about it.

  • While you have a minute to think about it, what do you need today?
  • How is your body feeling?
  • When was the last time you ate or drank water, or went to the bathroom?

You focus on your baby’s needs, but no one benefits if you neglect your care. Ideally, someone is also focused on you. You may feel overwhelmed and unable to focus, so being able to rely on someone for help, for big or small things, is a part of healing too. 

But when you were thinking about what life would be like after you gave birth, you could imagine these sorts of needs and even the stressors. What is harder to imagine is how to heal when COVID-19 impacts everyone and everywhere. 

Tasks like going to the grocery store are no longer straightforward, quick errands. Going to the first pediatrician appointment holds new risk. Having the in-person emotional and physical support of friends and family might be impossible.

Here is what some other families in the Chicago-area have done to help new parents during COVID-19: 

Be Confined together:

Some Chicago families are choosing to be proactive and go through the stay at home order with other people. If there is space, going through two weeks of quarantine before the birth means that extra support is on hand.   And the first weeks you are a small community, instead of alone. The benefits are huge.  More hands to make light work of every task, and the ability to take all necessary precautions. 

Family and Friends take over Food Transport: 

Meal trains are nothing new in the world of caregiving.  However, with more people home and looking for activities to keep their own families connected they are taking on new importance.  Porch drop-offs and visits through windows and doors allow for connection, and again, increased safety for your family. 

And if delivering prepared meals isn’t a good option, families have taken over the shopping and transport of groceries. Removing the risk of being in high contamination locations is a tremendous gift to a new family. Grocery pick-up and drop off, and the odd run to the pharmacy for cravings or supplies is a new way to show your love. 

Working with dedicated support professionals, like doulas and newborn specialist: 

If you are not able to have the care you planned from family or friends in the first weeks, doulas are still an option for help and support during COVID-19. Doulas work with immunocompromised populations every day and are seasoned at taking necessary precautions and limiting exposure for our client’s well being. 

Having help during the day or night is not something you have to do without. 

Here are some questions you’ll want to be sure to ask if you are looking for hired help during this time:

  • What precautions does the doula take upon entering your home? 
  • How many families does the doula work with at a time?
  • What/if any training has the doula taken?
  • What safety measures does the doula use while working with your family?