So you have taken an empowered approach to pregnancy and birthing your baby, and now you also have to decide what you are going to do with your baby’s placenta! There are many ways of honoring the placenta, the organ that literally connected you to your baby, and passed on your nourishment for so many months. Encapsulation is a hot trend, and placenta encapsulation certifications, classes and trainings are cropping up all over. The idea of needing a certification in placenta encapsulation is ridiculous, and is a product of our culture that insists on making everything (especially birth related) more complicated, more expensive/lucrative, and more specialized to the point where we simply can’t do anything for ourselves or our friends. My hope is that this post will help you understand the back to basics approach we here at Indie Birth support, so that you can choose from the full spectrum, including the low/no tech and free/low cost.
There are many purported benefits to consuming your placenta, and I encourage you to research that as much as you’d like. For me, it is enough to simply imagine what we humans have done for many thousands of years. If we are hungry after the birth, we eat the placenta. If we are not, we either cut the cord many hours later, or let the cord dry and separate itself (lotus birth) and leave the placenta on the ground for other animals to enjoy. That is not the life that most of us currently live, and we have new cultural ideas to contend with. Despite that, I have broken up the ideas though into those two basic categories – you either consume the placenta, or you don’t. I won’t give detailed instructions for anything except the method we recommend most often, included at the end of this article, which was inspired by Lisa Barrett’s placentophagy session at the Trust Birth 2012 conference.
Make Placenta Art – Make prints of your placenta by pressing it onto some nice paper. Some people save dried pieces to put inside pendant necklaces. There are tons of ideas out there, and these can usually be done in addition to consumption.
Perform a Burial or Offering to Nature – You can bury your placenta under a tree or bush, or somewhere special in the garden. You can also take it out to a special place and leave it on the ground where another animal will greatly appreciate the meal.
Create a Homeopathic Remedy- You can create a homeopathic remedy from a piece of placenta which can last your child’s whole life and purportedly has powerful properties unique to your child and beneficial for the issues they may encounter in life. You can do this yourself or ask a friend to help with this great recipe from Moonsong. If you use a piece for a homeopathic remedy you can still consume the rest of your placenta.
Eat it Without Much Fuss! – You can fry up your placenta with onions and garlic or substitute it for meat in your favorite recipes (think lasagna, casseroles). I have not done this or seen this, so please share your experiences if you have!
Encapsulate or Powder Your Placenta – As was already mentioned, there are specialized placenta encapsulation providers that offer this service for a fee. Anyone can encapsulate a placenta, but it is easier when you have a system and all the equipment (but you certainly do not need a certificate!). Professional encapsulators also have differing methods and philsophies, so do your research. You, or preferably friends or family, can also do this process though with a few simple tools.
There are many how-to guides online, although they tend to make it more complicated than necessary. Here is the basic idea: You want to use a fresh placenta, no more than a few days old – slice the placenta into strips – dehydrate your placenta in a dehydrator or low heat in oven with door propped open – then blend it or crush it into a powder in a blender (immersion blender would work too. Don’t overthink it)- and then either put it into empty capsules with a spoon or capsule machine or use it as a powder on foods or in smoothies. This usually makes at least 100 capsules which can be refrigerated or frozen to last longer, although I question how natural it is to save these for menopause, and if the quantity would make a difference anyways.
Our favorite recommendation is to eat your placenta raw and then frozen, without washing off the extra blood, either using larger chunks for smoothies, or by swallowing the smaller raw “pills” whole (works great when chased with fizzy soda or juice). Both versions of this are easy and fast, but the raw pills are simpler after the initial prep work of cutting smaller pieces since you don’t have to make a smoothie every day.
Either way, you are going to want to gather the same supplies:
– a surface that you don’t mind getting bloody (chux pad or cutting board)
– gloves if you feel you need them
– a sharp pair of clean kitchen shears like these
– 2 cookie sheets or other surfaces that will fit into your freezer (or you can use 1, but will have to freeze the pieces in 2 groups)
– a freezer container to put the finished pieces in (pyrex works great; so does a gallon freezer bags)
– yummy organic fizzy soda or juice (optional)
– a fresh placenta or placenta that has been refrigerated for a day or two maximum
1. Clear out space in your freezer and/or make sure your cookie sheets fit easily.
2. Set up your work station with cutting board, scissors, cookie sheets and gloves. This process goes most smoothly if you do it all at once and only have to clean up once.
3. All parts of the placenta and cord are edible, but check with the mama (because hopefully she is in bed nursing her baby) about which pieces she wants cut into pieces or not. When it doubt, just do it all (unless she was going to save the cord for an art project or something). There is no real technique to this, but I figured I would over-explain for those who might not want to just “go for it”.
a. If the pieces are for smoothies, they can be larger – the size of about a ping pong ball works well for a blender full of smoothie, where the mom can’t taste the placenta.
b. If you are making raw “pills” for swallowing whole, you want to cut the pieces smaller, obviously.I have not been able to cut pieces as small as a true pill, but no one has had a problem with them being slightly larger. In fact, it is difficult to get them pill shaped even, but since the tissue is so squishy, this doesn’t seem to be problematic either. So just cut them as uniformly as you can, somewhere between a nickel and a quarter size. Sometimes it helps to cut pieces off the maternal side first, across the cotyledons, leaving a trimmed down placenta with the membrane still in tact. Then, using the membrane is easier to cut uniform pieces. It isn’t rocket science!
4. Once all your pieces are cut, or half way through if you are going to do this in two rounds, put the pieces straight on a cookie sheet. Try to spread the pieces out so they are not touching each other, or just barely are, so you can break the pieces apart after they are frozen. The pieces have always come off the cookie sheet easily for me, except when I mistakenly tried using wax paper late one night after a birth. If you want to try plastic wrap, that may work, but it adds an extra unnecessary step.
5. Once the pieces are frozen (45 minutes – an hour seems like enough time) take them off the cookie sheet and put them into the more permanent freezer container. We recommend consuming all of these in the 3-4 weeks after birth, so it doesn’t need to be an amazing container.
For the raw pills, take as many as you want each day, following your intuition (wanting more, or less, or stopping altogether…). If you need a suggestion though, we recommend aiming for at least 6-8 pieces a day with a chaser of a fizzy organic soda or another favorite beverage if that helps. The women who have done this report not noticing the placenta “taste” at all so don’t be scared. Do this until you have taken all the placenta pieces (usually about 2-3 weeks).
For the smoothies, use at least one large piece in a smoothie every day until you run out. Strawberries are great for covering the color. One large chunk of placenta per blender seems to be a good amount for most people.
Whatever you end up doing with your placenta, try to arrange any logistics ahead of time and communicate your desires to your birth team so that amidst the excitement of your new baby, the placenta gets the treatment it deserves!
Let us know what you did with your placenta and how you felt about it. If you consumed your placenta, did you notice the effects? Tell us about it in the comments!