Let’s Talk Placenta

Placenta Encapsulation

This Hippy Sh*t

Before I had Oscar I was clueless about the placenta… as I was with EVERYTHING surrounding birth… and babies… and parenthood (and the list goes on). But no one talks about the placenta, do they? And I suppose it’s not that important is it? It’s only the organ that provides your growing baby with everything it needs to thrive – from oxygen to nutrients… but we don’t mention it. It’s just a kind of yucky word, a thing no one really talks about. A bit of an afterthought!

I watched a documentary when I was pregnant with Oscar all about “alternative births”. One woman who was having no medical observations during her pregnancy, including scans and would give birth at home on a boat if I remember right and another was going to birth in a lake like a mermaid I think. Another woman was having a Lotus Birth which is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after birth so that the baby is left attached to the placenta – she was carrying it around in a wee bag and sprinkling it with rose petals – “this shit is a bit hippy” I thought “but each to their own”. Then there was a girl that was choosing to “ingest her placenta” in the form of a smoothie which didn’t sound that ‘out there’ she spoke about what she believed would be the benefits and how it was only one little drink so why not… It got me thinking, and the more I thought about it, the more I came round to the idea. This was followed by some Googling and reading some personal accounts of women that had done it and research that surrounded the practice. Some people had cooked it, some had drank it, some had had it encapsulated and some buried it in their garden with a tree or plant – it was interesting!

I had a quick look at how to go about getting your placenta encapsulated – made into pills to take post partum – but there didn’t seem to be much in the UK and to be honest I didn’t know where to start. A smoothie however, seemed more accessible, I could do that at home I thought. I mentioned it to Robin who was slightly reluctant at the outset but happy to support my decision. But I still had a lot of questions like how do you store it, how would we prepare it? Basically – how the hell do we get it home and is it as easy as chucking it in a blender?! I didn’t know the answers, but surely I could find out.

My ante-natal classes rolled round and in the class that covered birth, the midwife mentioned delivering the placenta – this was my chance to find out, finally – but when she asked “is anyone planning to do anything with their placenta?” The question was met with laughter… from everyone. I shrank down in my seat and kept my mouth shut. It seemed this wasn’t my moment to have my questions answered – I was embarrassed.

The months passed and our c-section date drew closer and I was still keen to treat myself to a wee post-birth smoothie but equally a bit embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. Then during my pre-op assessment Robin bit the bullet for me and mentioned that I might be interested in doing it. The midwife laughed and said “yeah, I mean people are into all sorts of weird stuff. Some people even drink their own pee… but if you’re wanting it then you just have to bring a tub” – safe to say I was completely put off now. And the next day we went in… without a tub (I mean, what kind of tub were we to even use – one from leftover Chinese food?!)… had our beautiful baby boy and came away without a placenta.

But I was ANNOYED. Not at the people that laughed in my antenatal class or even the midwife that scoffed at the idea and left me blushing – I was annoyed at myself! Why did I let anyone else’s opinions on something put me off what I wanted to do? I wouldn’t let anyone else’s personal views deter me from something I wanted to do in any other aspect of my life – so why this? I’d missed out on an experience I felt passionate about because I was made to feel embarrassed. That’s not cool.

Placenta Encapsulation

A Second Chance

By the time my second pregnancy rolled round I felt differently… but not about wanting to take my placenta home (hell no, that was happening). I was different – I was more empowered and informed in my choices in all aspects of my birth plan. I knew I could have the experiences I wanted and I knew where to go to ask the questions and get the answers I needed. Most importantly, I wasn’t embarrassed!

Things had changed in two and a half short years and it seemed that a lot more people were embracing these “alternative” options, they were no longer alternative, no longer “a bit hippy”.

Around this time it just so happened Jen, of Badass Birth was running a giveaway via Instagram for someone to win placenta encapsulation and I shamelessly entered about a million times – seriously, I got all my friends to enter on my behalf! I was lucky enough to win and was delighted.

I was delighted to be using the services of someone I trusted, had met and who also came highly recommend by friends who had Jen present at the birth of their babies – I mean, trust doesn’t get much greater than that, does it?! We chatted about the process and benefits and Jen sent me out a cool bag and ice packs – I was to take these to the hospital and then Jen would jump in the car and pick it up from us.

So that’s what we did! When the day rolled round we told the surgeon and the midwife that went over my birth plan exactly what we wanted to do. The consultant told us that she recently worked for a few years in New Zealand where most people take their placenta home with them to do with what they will “after all, it is just part of you” and the midwife in charge explained that she would make sure everything was kept intact and as much cord was as possible was kept – she would then bag it up and pack it away for us. She was so supportive though and that makes the difference.

Within a couple of hours of Scout’s arrival we got a phone call to say Jen was outside the hospital and Robin nipped down with the cool bag of precious cargo and a few short days later the wonderful Jen delivered my capsules, balm and placenta print off to the house – and stole a cuddle off a little squishy Scout!

Placenta Encapsulation

The Finished Product

My placenta produced 300 capsules, enough to last nearly 2 months.

Have they made a difference? That’s the big questions isn’t it? And I’ll admit, it’s hard to say because every post partum experience is different… but –

  • I’ve felt amazing!
  • I’ve had so much energy and genuinely haven’t felt tired
  • Despite ‘above average’ blood loss during my c-section I have not had low iron levels post-partum
  • My milk supply has been plentiful but I’ve not felt engorged
  • My skin has felt great
  • I’ve not noticed much, if any, postpartum hair loss
  • If I were to have another baby, would I do it again? – yes!

Would I recommend it? Yes – but only if you want to do it. Hey, it turns out this shit isn’t that hippy at all, it’s for anyone that fancies it.

But to be honest, this post isn’t about convincing anyone to eat their placenta or encapsulate it or plant it or whatever – that’s up to you, and it’s not for everyone, I get that. Instead, as I wrote this post I realised that what it’s really about is choice. What I want is for people to read this and to know they can ask about these things and that there is information out there if you think it’s something you might want to consider, for whatever reason.

You always have choices and don’t let anyone put you off exploring any of them when it comes to not just your placenta, but your birth. Know your options, ask questions and feel empowered – don’t ever feel embarrassed or let anyone else’s opinions put you off. Your body, your baby and your birth – embrace whatever “hippy shit” you want!

I’d love to hear from you with your placenta stories – what did you do with yours? Or have you ever been made to feel your choices are a bit weird?

Lou x

Placenta Encapsulation

One thought on “Let’s Talk Placenta

  1. Hi Lou, thanks for your blog, I’ve really been enjoying your posts. Your discussion of placenta is really interesting. My baby daughter was born 11 weeks early after a placental abruption. The placenta was kept and analysed by the medical research team to examine how it had developed during the pregnancy and for evidence of medical issues in the placental tissue. The research team could tell us all about the analysis afterwards. I’m really proud that we agreed to this because it will hopefully help other women who face similar medical concerns to those that I did in pregnancy. As you say, it is worth asking questions and talking to your care team about your options 🙂 xx

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