Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Post Partum Depression and Placenta Encapsulation

Yesterday, I finally asked the question that I've been meaning to ask my obgyn for months and had been putting off. I needed to know whether the hospital I will be delivering at releases placentas to patients. I need to know now so that I can get the things ready to take it with us and set up a person who will be processing it for me.

In the days leading up to the appointment, I had to actually tell my husband about my plans too, assuming that the hospital would let us take it home.

You should have seen his face. The abject horror.

I think maybe he thought I was going to make him eat it at first.

He's heard me talk about things, you guys. The dangers of living with a doula.

While I marvel at the magnificent wonder of the placentas I've seen, while to me they are easily the most fascinating organ that exists, while I could stare at them for hours with each opportunity I get to see them...he sees them as the same thing that most people see them as. A byproduct of birth that goes in a bowl over there, and then they throw it away or incinerate it or whatever they do with it because it's bloody and gross and looks like a slab of raw meat.

This is why I'm the doula and he isn't.

Incidentally, when I told him why I was having it done, he was 100% on board with the idea. I would process it myself, but I don't have all the necessary equipment here to do it.

Anyhow, I'm bringing the placenta home from the hospital, and I am having someone (not sure who yet, still working on that part) encapsulate it. Essentially, it is processed by drying it and grinding it into a powder that is then put into capsules that I will have to take as needed after delivery.

Every batch of capsules, necessarily specific to each mother/child combination.

I'm not frying it up in a pan or planting a tree or any of that stuff. I absolutely do not have any issues with anyone who does any of those things with theirs at all. I know women who have eaten them. I know quite a few women who still have theirs sitting in their freezers.

Placentas are not gross. They are ridiculously cool. End of story.

Let me tell you a little bit about them, and hopefully it'll be enough to turn some of you out there reading into true believers.

The placenta is the only organ that ever spontaneously arises. It has one goal and one goal alone, which is to connect one life to another. It doesn't actually belong to either the mother or the baby, it belongs to their union. Somehow our bodies figure all that out, and escort the placenta right on out shortly after birth barring any complications.

If you ever have occasion to attend a birth where you aren't the one delivering, ask to check out the placenta afterwards. I can promise you that it is way cooler than you think it is. Umbilical cords are just as awesome, and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. A dear friend of mine delivered a child with a true knot in the cord, and we all gasped in the delivery room when we saw it, knowing how lucky she and the baby had been. A client of mine once had a twin gestation that ended with only one baby. The placenta, though, it held all the evidence we ever needed that there had once been two babies attached.


The reasons for placenta encapsulation are a few. For my purposes, I am having it done in the hopes that it will help me to avoid and/or manage any symptoms of post partum depression. I have a history of developing the condition, and have chosen to be pro-active about it this time. I don't want to sit here and wait to see if it manifests, I want to know that I'm doing what I can to avoid it.

Placenta capsules can help increasing both the volume and quality of a mother's milk supply, can help ease the transition from pregnancy to motherhood. They are said to assist with pain relief and anxiety, to help rebalance hormone levels, help with physical recovery, reduce bleeding and more.

Many cultures around the world recognize these benefits far more than we tend to, and in most instances women will consume the placenta immediately after birth.

Encapsulation allows the benefits to be spread out over a longer period of time, on an as-needed basis.

In addition to trying this strategy, I'm also working on being a lot more open about my history. Part of that means telling all you guys that I've dealt with it before, that I'm afraid of it coming back this time, that if I start to sink into my hole, hopefully someone out there reading will pick up the subtle cues if I fail to admit it again.

Part of it means that my husband is totally aware of what is going on with me now. PPD was something I managed to keep from everyone, including him, for over a year. A flipping year. I fully anticipate that he'll be all up in my business this time around, mostly because he has learned the hard way just how stubborn and secretive I can be, and how dangerous that is.

Part of it means that I have a therapist all lined up in case I need to go there.

Part of it means that I have to talk about this stuff, not just with medical professionals, but with friends, with family, with other moms who've been to this dark nasty place.

Part of it means that I have to force myself to face it, because I know how bad it can get if I don't.

So, yeah...I'm bringing a baby and a big bag of human meat home from the hospital. On purpose. Then it's going to help me heal.

Don't make that face. 

Honest. As a doula, part of what I do is educate people, women in particular about the benefits of all this stuff. Our bodies are pretty freaking amazing and they can help in so many ways that we may not even know about because of societal biases against them.

Birth isn't supposed to be sterilized and clean and neat and tidy, even if we've been conditioned to believe that.

Birth is messy and real and bloody and gross.

It changes us, and it isn't something that ends the moment the baby is born. The postpartum period is as important as whatever happens before then. We need to come around, as a society, about this truth. We need to teach moms to take better care of themselves, and we need to start by doing it ourselves.

Maybe that means we encapsulate our placentas, stick them in the fridge and pull out a few on a rainy day.

Postpartum healing.

This time around, I'm going to kick it's ass.


  1. (I've been having trouble with my comments, lately. Seems It might be fixed now.)

    I applaud your proactive approach. While ingesting placenta in any form isn't something I see myself doing, I embrace you for doing the research and doing what is right for you. PPD sucks big time. I definitely hid it the first time around, but got really scared the second time and couldn't ignore it. I hope your postpartum experience is better his time around. Do whatever you need to to make it work for you.


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