For thousands of years Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has considered the placenta powerful medicine with various health benefits. In our society many consider ingesting placenta "barbaric" but among many cultures it has historically been and is still consumed and otherwise treated with respect and reverence for it's life-giving properties. This gift from you baby, yes it is a part of the baby not the mother, is being used to ease the transition between pregnancy and postpartum. More women are hearing from others how taking placenta postpartum has helped with the huge adjustment hormonally to no longer being pregnant. Some of the benefits women have reported:
- lactation support (earlier and increased supply)
- decrease in postpartum blues and depression
- quicker postpartum recovery (such as tears/incisions and bleeding)
- replenished iron stores (let me know if you were anemic during pregnancy and/or lost a lot of blood so that I can prepare your placenta in a way that maximizes iron levels)
- more balanced hormone levels
- increased energy
- support during times of stress
I use the time-honored TCM method of preparation which allows the placenta to be ingested over time instead being consumed all at once, as is commonly seen in nature. While immediate consumption gives a great energy boost and replenishes lost nutrients and hormones it doesn't allow for the gentle, tonifying of TCM-prepared pills. In TCM women are traditionally fed cooling (including raw) foods during the first 48 hours to help slow the blood flow and calm the hormonal rush. After this period mothers are given warming foods (including prepared placenta) to promote healing by bringing the mother's body back into balance, tonifying purposes of nourishing the blood and restoring energy. The use of warming herbs and cooking of the placenta help with the formation and action of the placenta as medicine.
The Preparation Process
The TCM method involves gently steaming the placenta with warming herbs. I then dry the placenta, powder it, and put it into capsules for you. All preparations are done with my equipment in your home and you are welcome to watch as much or as little of the process as you'd like and ask questions you might have. There's very little if any smell during the preparation and drying process. I will need access to your kitchen sink, some countertop space and your stovetop. I use blood borne pathogen safety protocols to thoroughly sanitize equipment between uses and make the process as safe as possible for all. The process takes about two hours for first part and about two and a half to three hours for the second half. Most families agree with me that the placenta has very little smell, a lot like liver, and after being steamed also looks quite a bit like liver.
Each placenta is unique and varies in size. One placenta can make anywhere from about 90-140 capsules.
Some women prefer a raw preparation. This preparation is a very different "medicine" than the TCM method. Women report greater energy with a raw preparation and it's thought that it may contain more of the hormones, B vitamins, and enzymes then the steamed placenta. Some women find that they put off recovery with the raw preparation pills because they feel so energized that they don't take the time necessary to rest and recover. It's important if choosing raw preparation that the placenta be well cared for, refrigerated and then processed as soon as possible, and free of any known infection. If there are signs of possible infection during labor it may be best to choose the TCM method so as to avoid any potential for "growing" pathogens.
If you're interested in the raw preparation as well as the TCM method I would be happy to prepare some of each for you.
Other options for preparation include:
- Placenta tincture, a wonderful way to preserve the benefits of the placenta for long-term use and even (diluted) for the child. It is often used this way for hormonal balancing such as with PMS, depression or menopause. For children it can be used during times of transition, such as teething or learning to walk. It's not fully understood why, but it is reported to work like a reset button bringing the child back to a state of emotional and physical balance. It can also be professionally prepared into a child's perfect constitutional homeopathic remedy. For preparation a piece of the placenta is chosen before preparation of the rest of the placenta and put in a jar of 100 proof alcohol. The amount of placenta used of course determines how much tincture can be made and how much will be left for encapsulation. After 2-6 weeks (depending on whether you need it sooner or later) the placenta can be strained from the alcohol for indefinite use.
- A small portion of the fresh placenta can be added to a berry smoothie for raw consumption in the first 48 hours. It's reported that a mix of berries covers the iron-rich flavor well. I can prepare this for you or someone else can help you with this process.
- Beautiful placenta prints can be made with your placenta. They look like a tree, thus it makes sense that the placenta is often referred to as the tree of life. I do not have experience with this but have seen some beautiful prints and will gladly make some for you for free if you provide the paper. I recommend archival quality paper. Or I can provide the paper for a small fee. You can see some beautiful placenta prints here: http://www.portlandplacentaservices.com/placenta-prints--keepsakes.html
- A cord keepsake can be made from the baby's umbilical cord. Hearts or spirals are the most common. Some cultures even use this as a teether for baby!
- Your powdered placenta can be added to cream, made into a balm or salve. Sheep placenta is often used in expensive "restorative" creams and placenta extract is reported to be the active ingredient in Olay's Regenerist Ointment for the eyes. Clearly it promotes healing and regeneration of the skin cells and can be used to reduce cesarean scars, as a baby balm for baby's bottom, on cracked nipples and probably as a face cream. I will gladly prepare a balm or salve for you, or you can open your capsules and mix it into a pre-made cream or lotion.
When Should we Call You?
If you have placed your placenta in the refrigerator, freezer, or on ice within hours of your birth I can prepare your placenta at any time if I'm available, even if we haven't discussed it prior to your baby's birth. Ideally you can contact me as soon as you decide this is a service you would like me to provide so that we can discuss any questions you have and I can put your date on my calendar as a reminder that you'll be calling me. Please contact me via email, text, or call as soon as you think you're in labor or as soon as possible after the birth of your baby so that we can make arrangements to get your placenta prepared as quickly as possible. If I'm available I will gladly come to your home while you're still at the hospital if you're giving birth away from home and try to have it prepared before you're home.
How to Care For Your Baby's Placenta
The placenta needs to be put on ice or refrigerated as quickly as possible, or within about three hours of birth. Think of it as a fresh meat product :) You may want to bring a cooler just in case your room isn't one with a refrigerator or you don't have anyone to bring it home in those first hours after the birth. It's best to let your care provider know in advance that you'd like to take it home with you. It's also a good idea to request waiting to clamp the cord until it stops pulsating (at least 2 minutes) so that your baby's blood drains from the placenta and your baby is given back all it's blood. Studies show that breastfed babies with delayed cord clamping have much lower rates of anemia at 4 months and beyond. Cord blood is also full of stem cells that the baby's body can use to potentially heal birth traumas. Put it in your birth plan if you have one and remind the hospital staff when you arrive. If there's no infection or other reason for the placenta to be taken to the lab they will put it in a bowl with a lid and/or ziplock bags. If your placenta has to go to the lab for any reason please ask the nurse to write on the container that you do not want it treated with formaldehyde or any other preservative and to keep it refrigerated so that it can be taken home after testing. You do not need to be specific about your plans, although all the local hospitals have been fine with releasing the placenta and many care providers and nurses are fascinated by the idea. If you're having a homebirth the placenta looks much better if it is not left wrapped in a chux pad. The integrity is probably not compromised at all but if you want prints made or need to rebuild your iron stores you'll want the placenta to be placed into a ziplock bag without the chux pad.
Placenta Preparation ~ I will prepare and encapsulate your placenta using either the TCM method or the raw method. $150 Current doula clients may take $25 off ($125)
Combination Preparation ~ I will prepare both TCM and raw. Add $10.00
Tincture ~ Approximately 4 to 8 oz placenta tincture using 100 proof alcohol or brandy (40 proof). Your preference. $20 Add $10 if you would like me to keep it and strain out the placenta and return the finished tincture to you.
Prints ~ free if you provide the paper. At my cost if you would like me to provide paper.
Cord Keepsake ~ free, please let me know if you would like one.
Balm/Salve ~ Cocoa butter, coconut oil, bee's wax, essential oils, placenta powder. $15
Photos of the Process ~ free, let me know if you would like this.
The information on this page has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The services offered by Nurtured Birth Services are for preparation only and are not clinical, pharmaceutical, or intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Individuals who choose to utilize the services on this page take full responsibility of their own health and for researching whether or not placenta consumption is right for them.