DIY Placenta Options – No Professionals Required | Indie Birth

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DIY Placenta Options – No Professionals Required

June 16, 2013

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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placenta1So 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.

Non-consumption

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.

Consumption

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.

Raw Consumption

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.

“Instructions”
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.

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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!

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  1. indigomidwife says:

    I always say I threw away a year’s worth of happiness when I threw away my first daughter’s placenta. For my second, I thought of it like medicine and I did it raw over a 4 day period, swallowing small pieces like pills and chasing with grape juice. You are right, it did not have a taste! After a day or so, I started to crave it and ate several pieces at a time several times a day. I, and everyone else in my house, knew when I needed a dose because I would experience an emotional dip. Within a few minutes of eating several pieces, I would feel happy, clear-headed, and energetic. My experience with that postpartum was the exact opposite of the postpartum depression I felt after my first. I call it postpartum ecstasy! I can’t recommend it enough!

  2. […] Am I brave enough to eat my placenta? […]

  3. Kristina W says:

    Great post, thank you for the information.

    We are going to try the raw/frozen method, but I wanted to share a tip my husband gave based on his experience cutting other sinewy/squishy organ meats for meals in the past: partially freeze the tissue before attempting to cut it.

    If you give the whole organ some time to get crunchy in the freezer (but not frozen solid!) it is much easier to cut into regular sized pieces. If you’ve already cooled it in a cooler to near freezing, it should only take 30 minutes to an hour to get to that state. Its less messy, too, as most of the fluid in the tissue is frozen or nearly so.

  4. Kim B says:

    Much can be said about this article and the corresponding video. As a professional placenta encapsulation specialist, I am surprised at the author’s complete lack of universal precautions and sanitation when it comes to handling and preparing human organs for consumption. I can’t begin to imagine the cross contamination happening there. Also lacking is the author’s knowledge or even mention of placenta pathology, drug interactions (some medications taken before or during birth can prevent a placenta from being consumed), bacterial infections, food handling safety….I mean I could literally go on and on.

    No, you do not currently need to be certified in order to encapsulate your own (or even someone else’s) placenta. However, as a birth professional, a doula, it is your responsibility to help mother’s make INFORMED choices about birth. Posting articles like this is scary and spreads so much misinformation, and can be harmful to birthing mothers and those that try DIY placenta encapsulation without proper sanitation, blood borne pathogens, pathology and drug considerations.

    If there is anyone out there who reads this article and wishes to prepare her placenta for consumption, I will be more than happy to give you CORRECT and SAFE information as to how to do so, for no charge.

    I can be contacted through my website:
    http://www.CreationTherapeutics.com

  5. Sam Mueller says:

    I was going to give the same advice as Kristina W. I am expecting my 4th baby in a few months and as I have not discovered the “art” of placenta ingestion, this will be my first time trying it. At first I felt reserved and a little grossed out about the idea of consuming my own organ. But after some research and soul searching, I feel like it’s the natural thing to do. I am still not sure which method I will use, but I really appreciate this DIY post. I am struggling to find a way to afford someone else’s services or going through the course myself (I am a birth doula and before I knew I was even going to have another child, I planned to take the certification so I could offer this service to my clients). Thank you so much for giving me the tools to do this for myself! <3 <3 <3

  6. Sara says:

    Kim B -What does your comment mean? This is for mothers to use their own placenta, not the placenta assembly line that you may have at your home/preparation site. I don’t wear gloves and a mask when I prepare my dinner. Do you? Do you wear gloves when handling your newly born baby? Do you have a lab where you are testing all of the placentas that you prepare?
    If you are doing mass production placenta prep, then that is a different topic entirely. Please, know how not to contaminate the next woman’s placenta (I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable sending my placenta away if I were going to eat it! Or, take it home from hospital. Yikes!) This resource has nothing to do with the selling of placenta services.
    THis is for mothers, like myself, who like to do it ourselves. Or, have a nice friend come into our home and help us. I realize this may cut into the placenta money making business but it is really a simple thing.
    Thanks for the resource, Indie Birth! I continue to appreciate your respect for mothers leading the way in their own birth experience!

  7. Julie says:

    Well said, Sara!

  8. Margo Nelson says:

    This is the method that this mother (an experienced midwife) wanted. We are very clear with people that this is our method that we have learned from other midwives here and in other countries, and that we assist people with if that is what they choose. We had so many requests for the information that we put it in one spot, and has been widely accepted and circulated. We exclusively support homebirth and unassisted birthers and would never even fathom including a discussion about drug interaction, particularly because this article was not about how or why (or why not) to consume a placenta, but simple about how to prepare it yourself if you want to.

    This is a 100% purely a guide for people choosing to do this for themselves who have already done the necessary research on their own about why, and if it is a good idea for them. This was never meant to be a comprehensive, everything you could ever want to know about placenta consumption article or video.

    At Indie Birth ALL WE DO is give women information. We do not give them every side of every topic on our site, because we think other perspectives are largely garbage, and that is not our scope. When we work one-on-one with individual women, then of course we work on an informed choice model in which all perspectives are explored and women’s choices honored. I am incredibly offended that you would think that is something we need to be told. It shows how very little you know about us.

    As for your concerns, I used non-sterile gloves over my scrubbed hands and a pair of clean kitchen shears (that the mother wanted me to use). The placenta had been refrigerated for about 12 hours after the cord was clamped and cut and transported the 15 feet to the kitchen in a clean bowl. The cut pieces went straight onto clean cookie sheets and into the freezer. If someone was more concerned about sanitation than that, I would tell them to figure it out themselves because that is all I see as necessary. This is preparation of a human organ, but it is being prepared for the human that it came out of. Any blood borne pathogens or bacteria in the placenta were already in the mother to begin with.

    I am open to having a real discussion if there is truly something I missed, rather than a difference in philosophy and opinion, or more likely a defensiveness over women asserting their own abilities rather than propping up the placenta preparation industry. I am familiar with the course that you took, and they utilize photos of women using a similar technique I showed, wearing the same gloves and using plastic cutting boards instead of a clean chux pad. I encourage you to make your own video if you find ours so abhorrent.

    And what would you like me to have expressed about placenta pathology? And bacterial infections? We have made very similar biological processes way more complicated and fear-based than they need to be, and your comment seems to illustrate that well.

  9. esther says:

    Thank you Sara! I know this post may be about a year old but there is new mother that look up these topics and Kim’s comment began to throw me off a bit it was actually discouraging to read it as I felt that I actually needed a professional to do this for me. But in reality not everyone like me can afford that service. So thank you Indie Birth for the information and the tactic you used. because it gave me confidence.

  10. Tabetha says:

    Just to add to the older comment about the safety of this article – it is really no different than the concept of a lay-person who hunts deer providing information to others about how to handle and process the meat.

    And, yes, I’ve watched such videos, and since it’s from one non-professional to another, it isn’t necessary that any precautions be given, but often they are when the person doing the video/article is aware of them. They may suggest things like wearing gloves, methods or protecting objects from becoming dirty from blood, concerns about pathogens, and generally accepted methods of handling raw meat, etc. (How long can you wait before freezing, what kind of materials do you need to keep the meet frozen safely and for how long will it last, etc.).

    But the answer to those kinds of questions/thoughts/concerns come from a common sense rather than from a liability stand point.

    When talking about deer meat, it makes sense to be much, much more cautious than it does when handling one’s own placenta! And yet I get the feeling that the person who had such negative comments about the safety of the article would actually feel that processing raw deer meat in one’s own home is safer than processing “human blood and tissue” because of the connotation that human blood and tissue has in a medical setting.

    But again, this isn’t a medical setting. These aren’t foreign tissues and blood products.

    Common sense dictates that preparing a placenta should be done in a clean way without spreading the raw tissue and blood onto other surfaces (or cleaning properly if so), and common sense also dictates that the placenta be kept at food-safe temperatures before and after freezing with some idea of the limits for the “shelf-life.”

    People consume raw meat all the time – the issue with raw meat is not that it is naturally covered in e-coli, etc. the problem with raw meat is that it is often contaminated by the animal itself or during processing or transport. Those things shouldn’t be an issue with proper handling and clean receptacles being used for a placenta. The only thing I would be curious about is if any fecal matter from the woman comes into contact with the placenta when it is coming out, but really, we would need some evidence-based research on the number of women consuming raw placentas who are getting sick from ingesting tiny bits of their own fecal matter in order to really be concerned about this.

    You could be eating more fecal matter on an apple that someone working at a grocery store stocked after scratching their anus…(sorry to be so descriptive). Isn’t that how people pick up several types of diseases? But mainly the problem is with coming into contact with FOREIGN fluids and tissues and bloods, etc.

  11. Michelle says:

    This is the only article and information I could find (online) about consuming the placenta raw!! I’m very interested in freezing it as this suggests, that way I can either take in “pill” form or put a few pieces into a smoothie. Are there any added benefits to consuming it this way vs. encapsulation? Also a big money saver to diy!! I would guess that having a dehydrator without temp controls could cook out some of the nutrients? I’m due in April and very much looking forward to the journey!

  12. Maryn Green says:

    Michelle-I don’t think there is research about much of this but intuitively would say that drying to encapsulate has GOT to lessen some of the natural energy of the raw placenta. One huge benefit of raw is the blood (don’t rinse it) that is often helpful when we are replenishing after birth. My thoughts, anyway. -Maryn

  13. Kara Franz says:

    I prepare raw pastured beef and chicken livers in this exact same way! Great article. Love the idea to use kitchen shears instead of just a knife like I’ve been doing with livers.

  14. Heather says:

    I found your article very helpful. I had someone process my last placenta and she let me watch and with my next baby, we did it ourselves. Thanks for the information and giving me the confidence I needed.

  15. Sydney Sumi says:

    Thank you for this article! I am pregnant with my first child and have been reading everything I can get my hands on about the many benefits of consuming my placenta. I have chosen a midwife route through my hospital. I have always been attracted to home births but my midwifery program offers a very comfy birthing center. Anyways, I have lots of time to decide but after reading this and learning that the best way to prepare my placenta for consumption in the days following delivery it for immediate freezing? Is that right? So unless I have a home birth I am going to have to make sure that my birthing team will not mishandle my placenta? Obviously, with so much going on, my attention is going to be on delivering my baby! The less I have to worry about my placenta the better. I guess what my question is… is do most hospitals have a course of action for mothers who want to eat their placenta? I mean, I could go all primal and gobble it up right there… but that might be frowned upon. haha. Thanks again for this informative article!

  16. Maryn Green says:

    Yes, most hospitals will respect your wishes with the placenta. Inform your nurses etc that you want to take the placenta home and they should be able to keep in the fridge for you until you are discharged.

  17. Gabby Young says:

    I previously thought placenta consumption was out of the question for me because of the price. After reading your blog post, I was inspired to prepare and consume my own placenta free of charge! The labor and delivery unit at my hospital bagged, froze and stored my placenta at my request. When I was discharged, I brought my placenta home and kept it in the freezer. At 1 week postpartum, I thawed it about halfway in the fridge, cut it into chunks and stored it in a container in the back of my refrigerator. (If I had known it was going to be so easy I would have done it earlier). For the next week, I prepared my regular smoothie (bananas, strawberries, spinach, and ground flaxseed) and just added a few chunks. I barely noticed the taste! (I think the blood gave the smoothie more of an iron after taste. After thoroughly rinsing the placenta on day 2 I did not notice the taste at all). It made a large yeti sized smoothie a day plus 2 sippy cups for my daughter for about a week. (I asked her how the smoothie tasted and she said ‘good’). Thank you so much for making this post. Preparing and consuming my own placenta made me feel SO EMPOWERED!

  18. Victoria Rose Simons says:

    I am curious if you have ever heard of or tried grinding the placenta in a meat grinder, to mix all the material and be able to form smaller “pills”? Do you think this would work?
    Thanks!

  19. Maryn Green says:

    Sure, that’s called encapsulation and lots of people love that method!

  20. Hannah says:

    I had a sweet friend offer to cut up and prepare my placenta for me right after the birth. The midwife told her to place the chunks in an ice tray, which worked out great… except that one chunk that flew across my kitchen as I tried to pry it out later. The smoothies were tasty, but due to my my low grade blender at the time I ended up tossing my head back to swallow if I wasn’t sure I was eating a half blended strawberry or piece of placenta. If possible, I am definitely looking forward to trying this again since I experienced NO crazy postpartum dep! To pay back my friend for her generous act of love I was hoping to prepare her placenta in the same way, however, I will be 7.5 months pregnant. Do you think this close interaction with her placenta and hormones could bring harm to my pregnancy?

  21. MT Mom says:

    I am so bummed to read that consumption must be done within 2 to 3 days. It has been 10 days since I gave birth and I have had my placenta refrigerated the entire time but have been so busy I didn’t get around to reading the whole article before or after baby’s birth, until now. Is there any possible chance it’s still okay to prepare for consumption? 🙁

  22. Stephanie says:

    Hi there! I’m just wondering how soon would I have to put my placenta into the fridge after birthing it? Lots of other sites state you should refrigerate it within 30 minutes but if I want to delay cord clamping for longer is that ok? Thank you xx

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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