Placenta Encapsulation: Everything You Need to Know

This post contains everything you need to know about placenta encapsulation. Recently I was able to photograph the process start to finish. I am thrilled to be able to share these placenta encapsulation images with you.

Placenta encapsulation is a growing trend in the United States.
Can you believe that’s a placenta? Three days previously, it was in a mother’s womb, nourishing her unborn baby.

Placentas are truly amazing and often underrated. Did you know that the placenta is the only organ a human grows past birth and then sheds naturally? The placenta provides oxygen and nourishment to unborn babies and removes waste from their blood.

Placentas nourish babies and filter waste throughout pregnancy.

What to Expect.com has one of the most simple yet thorough descriptions of how the placenta grows that I’ve read:

Meanwhile, seven or eight days after a sperm fertilizes an egg in week 4 of pregnancy, a mass of cells — the earliest form of an embryo — implants into the wall of the uterus. Some cells from this mass split away, burrowing deeper into the uterine wall. Instead of preparing to form fingers and toes and a brain like the rest of the embryo’s cells, these ones are destined to form the placenta, a disc-shaped organ that’s chock-full of blood vessels and will take over for the corpus luteum in the second trimester.

Clearly visible amniotic sac is shown while a placenta is prepared for encapsulation.
The amniotic sac surrounding the baby and attached to the placenta is very strong.

What is Placenta Encapsulation?

Placenta encapsulation is the process of drying the placenta after birth and placing it into capsules. The capsules are taken in the weeks and months after birth.

Placenta encapsulated and ready to be consumed.

Consuming placentas after birth became trendy the ’70s. The United States was experiencing a movement toward natural birth and breastfeeding. Many people were looking to nature for guidance and interested in getting “back to the land”. This led to babywearing, extended breastfeeding, and placenta consumption.

Why in the world anyone would choose to encapsulate then consume their placenta? The main reason for encapsulation appears to be making the placenta more palatable. The internet is actually full of recipes for placenta smoothies and even placenta lasagna! Amazon sells a book, 25 Placenta Recipes. But let’s be honest, most women simply aren’t up for a placenta pizza.

Beautiful spiraled umbilical cord still attached to placenta after birth.

Why Consume Your Placenta After Birth?

Currently, there isn’t any research proving conclusively that there are health benefits to consuming your placenta after birth. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of it helping with postpartum depression, hormonal balance after birth, and milk production. Many new moms report a smoother transition after birth and in the first few months postpartum.

Close up of umbilical cord ready to be dried.

Is Placenta Encapsulation Safe?

Placenta encapsulation is safe as long as it is done by someone with appropriate training. ProDoula offers a placenta encapsulation course that follows the WHO guidelines for safe placenta consumption. All graduates of ProDoula’s placenta encapsulation training have earned their blood born pathogen certificates as well as completed ProDoula’s comprehensive training. As with anything birth-related service, the best thing you can do is reach out and interview or ask questions of any provider you are considering.

Doulas of Bellingham offer private and group childbirth education classes.

Important Questions to Ask

Where did you receive your training? Where will the encapsulation take place? Who is responsible for transporting my placenta? How long will the process take? How much experience do you have?

Placenta encapsulation resources in Bellingham, WA. Photos by Little Earthling Photography.

What Does Placenta Encapsulation Look Like?

Kitchen santitized and set up for placenta encapsulation.

Katie Klassen from Drayton Harbor Doula and Birth Services allowed me to tag along as she encapsulated a placenta. I was thrilled to be able to capture the process start to finish!

The first step in the process is a clean and disinfected kitchen! For safety and sanitation, placenta encapsulation should take place in your own home.

Washing a placenta in preparation for encapsulation.

The placenta is washed to remove any blood on the surface.

Safe placenta encapsulation should take place in your home.

Katie used wooden skewers to empty the vessels. Once all of the blood vessels were drained, the placenta was again rinsed thoroughly.

Clean and pink placenta ready for encapsuation.

The drained placenta was pink (instead of red) and so healthy looking!

Steaming the placenta is important to kill any bacteria.
Placenta ready to be steamed.

Steaming the placenta is an important step before encapsulation. This helps kill any harmful bacteria. Lemon and ginger are often used during the steaming for their antiseptic properties.

Placenta steamed and ready to be dehydrated for encapsulation.
Placenta after being steamed. I love how clearly you can see the blood vessels once the placenta is steamed.
Slicing steamed placenta in order to encapsulate it.

Once the placenta was steamed and cooled Katie cut it into thin slices.

The steamed placenta is sliced thinly before being dehydrated.
Sliced placenta laid out for dehydration.

These slices of steamed placenta were spread out on a dehydrator and left to dry overnight. (Covered, obviously, this photo was taken before the cover was put on the dehydrator).

Dried placenta ready to be ground for encapsulation.
Placenta, fully dried and ready to be ground.
Close up image of dehydrated placenta.

The next day the placenta was ready to be ground and poured into capsules.

Close up image of a dehydrated umbilical cord.
Dried placenta ready for encapsulation.
Dried placenta being ground in magic bullet blender.
Placenta encapsulation process.

Once the placenta was ground and any chunks removed, it was ready to be placed in the capsules. This placenta ended up producing 168 placenta capsules!

Placenta encapsulation is a growing trend in the United States.

This was truly an amazing process to observe. I love expanding my knowledge of birth caring for mothers during the postpartum period.

Placenta encapsulated and ready to be consumed.
Placenta encapsulation resources in Bellingham, WA. Photos by Little Earthling Photography.

Placenta Encapsulation Options in Bellingham, WA

Doulas of Bellingham offers placenta encapsulation with a variety of options from strawberry-flavored capsules to placenta prints and umbilical cord keepsakes.

Doula Q Placenta Services

North Cascade Doulas

Did you encapsulate your placenta? If so, please leave your experience in the comments below.

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