Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Placenta Medicine Article

I saw this article and was so excited that I immediately shared it on Facebook.

Then I sat back and thought, "Oh my goodness, what have I just done?"

Having now horrified my entire set of Facebook friends (some of whom are probably pressing "delete friend" as we speak!), I wanted to post it here:

Unusual Practice Thought to Help Beat Baby Blues

I am very enthusiastic about placenta medicine. It's unusual and counter-culture, and takes some getting used to thought-wise, but it had such a profoundly positive influence on my postpartum experience that I want to tell the whole world about it! After all, something that is practiced by the entire mammalian kingdom, including most traditional human communities, can't be that bad! :)

I'm actually thinking of trying out placenta encapsulation as a sideline... I'll post about it if that ever goes anywhere!


I'm going to copy the whole article here, just to have it in case the link is taken down:

To the average New Brunswicker, the practice may seem unusual, to say the least, but in many cultures around the world consuming the placenta after a baby's birth is commo

Natalie Arsenault, a Traditional Birthing Attendant, offers a placenta encapsulation service. She will receive the placenta, dry it and then encapsulate it for mothers who do not wish to do their own.

The theory is that the placenta contains hormones that are beneficial to the mother.

After a baby's birth, a mother's hormone levels drop off rapidly, which is thought to cause the baby blues.

The idea behind placentophagy -- eating the placenta -- is that it will help balance hormone levels by re-introducing the very hormones the mother produced during pregnancy.

If the thought of serving your baby's placenta as lunch is a bit too much for you, placenta encapsulation may be a more palatable choice.

Natalie Arsenault of Moncton is a traditional birthing attendant who also offers placenta encapsulation services.

Soon after birth Natalie dries the placenta, then grinds it up, divides it into capsules and delivers them to you.

While the use of the placenta is less common in North America, Natalie says it is used in a lot of Chinese medicine.

"It is the most absorbable source of iron," she says. "After you have a baby, it is very important for energy, for helping with milk production and for sleeping right."

Creating a good milk supply may be one of the most important benefits for moms who breastfeed.

"You are intaking some good nutrients," Natalie says. "Sometimes what makes us tired is that the baby is feeding all the time and maybe he is feeding all the time because you are not producing enough milk because you are tired."

The capsules can help stop that vicious cycle, Natalie says.

It takes hours to prepare the placenta for encapsulation.

First Natalie steams it, then she transfers it to a pan and sprinkles it with coarse sea salt, garlic, and organic rosemary, which is strictly to add a familiar flavour in case you happen to burp after taking a capsule.

She then puts it in the oven to dry at a very low heat, a process that usually takes about eight hours.

Natalie says it is important to cook the placenta on low heat in order to preserve its molecular structure.

When the placenta is completely dry, it looks much like beef jerky. Natalie then grinds it into a fine powder and fills the capsules by hand, although a new drug store that has opened locally has offered to take over that part for her as it has a machine that can do the encapsulation.

"For the whole process I tell mothers to give me a good 24 hours," Natalie says.

Each placenta yields 100 to 200 capsules, depending on its size.

Because she is currently filling the capsules by hand, Natalie uses larger capsules than she would like and so recommends new mothers take one each day.

Ideally, though, she says one morning, noon and night would be best, and she is hoping when the pharmacy takes over the encapsulation, it will be able to use smaller capsules.

Natalie normally recommends a new mom start taking the capsules three days after her baby's birth and continue taking them for at least two weeks.

"On day three, that is when the hormones really plummet and when you start to get weepiness or the baby blues," she says. "That adrenalin rush, the joy of the new baby is ebbing."

Natalie says some women notice a striking difference in their mood once they take the capsules, saying they reduced aggressiveness and the blues.

After the initial post-partum period, Natalie tells her clients to take the capsules as needed.

She says they can continue to be used for years as long as they are stored in a cool, dry place. She keeps her own in the freezer and says she still takes them from time to time.

"I take one when I feel something coming on or if I feel low or my milk supply is low," she says.

While the encapsulation process isn't all that difficult, it is time-consuming, which is why many women opt to have someone like Natalie do the work for them while they tend to their newborn. The service is still fairly rare, so Monctonians are quite lucky to have that option locally.

It costs about $200 to have your placenta encapsulated, but "It is a pretty small investment in your health and your sanity," Natalie says.

"It is your safety net. Maybe you won't have any issues with the blues, but if you do, it is a great way to cover yourself... If you do need it, it could be a lifesaver."

Research into the benefits of using the placenta in this way has so far been limited. Natalie points out that there is no financial benefit for pharmaceutical companies, for example, to determine if there is good science behind the theory.

However, she says an American university did just win a research grant to do some work on the topic.

Natalie says the buzz word in the medical community these days is bio-identicals -- hormones derived from plants that are biologically identical to the hormones found in the human body. They are usually compounded by a pharmacist to create a custom blend specifically for one individual.

Natalie says capsules and tinctures derived from the placenta are suited perfectly to that mother and to her mother, who can use the products to fight symptoms of menopause.

While any placenta would provide iron and nutrients to anyone, each woman's hormones are different, so her own placenta is exactly the right potency for her.

Natalie says some people do just eat the placenta. She says she's made it into a soup for clients and she knows of others who have made it into a stir fry.

"But then you have it in one or two sittings and you get a big boost, but then it is gone," she says. "It is a little bit of a smarter game plan (to make it into capsules)."

Natalie says she's offered the encapsulation service for about four years and estimates she has encapsulated more than 50 placentas.

She has a booth at the Moncton Market and she says more and more women seem to have heard of placenta encapsulation when she talks about it with them.

"It is becoming more and more mainstream," she says. "Midwives are more aware of it."

Getting the placenta at the home births Natalie attends isn't an issue, but she says clients who have had their babies in hospital haven't met any resistance locally when they have asked to take their placentas home.

"They package it up in a hazardous waste container and usually the father shows up here," she says, adding sometimes one of her children or her husband answer the door and the husband, who often is wondering if his wife has lost her marbles, starts stumbling through an explanation.

"My husband just takes it and says, 'Yes, this is the place,'" she says.

Natalie says there have been cases in the U.S. where a hospital has refused to give the mother the placenta, so while there haven't been any issues in Canada, she says she usually advises clients to ask for it without going into too much detail about why they want it.

Some people do request the placenta for other reasons. Some bury it, for example. In many cultures, there are rituals surrounding the disposal of the placenta, which is viewed with honour.

Because the placenta is, essentially, a meat product, it needs to be treated as such and kept refrigerated until it is prepared.


  1. You can create lists of friends and then edit your links as you post/share them, to either hide it from certain friends or to make it visible only to certain friends.

    I do this all the time. For instance, if it's a cool but very crunchy birth thing, I'll limit to only by "birth junkie" friends so that my teenage and early-20 male friends don't blush or get sick; or if it's something good and conservative, I'll hide it from my liberal friends so they don't "unfriend" or hide me; if it's something political, I'll show it to only my friends who I know are "into" politics, because I know that some of them really aren't.

    I love the lists -- I really do! It keeps things neat and tidy (in my mind, at the least), and I can have just "church folks" or those just in my mom's side of the family, or whatever. Very cool. :-)


  2. Do you have any referrals for someone that can do this for me in AZ? I'll be in Gilbert when baby comes. I've been googling around and not coming up with much. Thank you!

  3. Hi, Danni!

    You can try Nikki (Nicole) A. - look here for her contact info:




    You can also register with the Arizona Birth Network yahoo group and ask for recommendations there.

    Good luck! :)


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