Your placenta is the amazing organ that supported your baby for the nine or so months before birth. It has done such a good job of nourishing and supporting your growing baby in the womb and yet it is often regarded as nothing more than “medical waste” after it is born. In many other cultures, the placenta is honored in a variety of ways and considered medicinally beneficial to both the mother and child. Just as it protected, nourished, supported and sustained its baby, the placenta when carefully prepared for consumption, continues its job by
- Supporting lactation
- Facilitating an easier postpartum recovery
- Increasing maternal energy
- Easing life transitions
- Avoiding postpartum depression
I started regularly preparing placentas for clients after I experienced the benefits of placenta ingestion myself after the birth of my second child. I found it incredibly helpful with my postpartum recovery and also with helping avoid the dark year of postpartum depression that I had experienced with my first child. Since it was so beneficial, I wanted to offer my skills to other mothers as well. I now offer a variety of placenta services to new families in the Portland and Vancouver area.
Placenta Encapsulation Services
For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized the placenta as powerful medicine used to increase scanty lactation and tonify Qi, life energy, after the birth. Today, many women look to placenta encapsulation as a natural way to even their hormones after birth and avoid postpartum depression. I use Traditional Chinese Medicine methods to gently steam, dehydrate, powder and encapsulate the placenta. Each placenta is different in size and substance so the amount of capsules it makes can vary from 90 to 140. After 2 weeks you can start to decrease the dosage down to 1 or 2 pills a day as needed. By ingesting your placenta in pill form you can reap the benefits of your placenta medicine without the “ick” factor that some people feel about cooking and eating it after the birth. Additionally, you get a longer, sustained application over the first month postpartum than if it was ingested immediately after the birth. Some people even save some of their remaining placenta capsules and freeze them for later, saying they can be useful during menopause or other physically/hormonally stressful times.
Placenta Tincture and Homeopathic Placenta Remedies
These forms of placenta medicine are not as well known as the dried, encapsulated placenta. However, it is so easy to do and has so many potential benefits, that I include it in my placenta preparation. I select a portion of the raw placenta, before I prepare the rest of it for encapsulation, and tincture it in one hundred proof alcohol. After steeping for a while, the placenta solids can be strained off to create a long lasting, pure placenta “mother” tincture which can have a multiplicity of uses.
The basic tincture can also be made into a homeopathic remedy that will be the child’s perfect constitutional remedy. For this, a portion of the mother tincture is successively shaken and diluted into a homeopathic remedy. I sometimes tell people that this is sort of like helping reset the child to their “original factory settings”. There is a good website with more information on Homeopathic Placenta Remedy that also includes instructions for making your own 6c remedy from the placenta tincture. If you do not want to make your own remedy and do not have your own Naturopathic Doctor to make it for you, I can send a small amount of your placenta tincture to a homeopathic laboratory for them to make into a remedy. This extra service costs an additional fee – approximately $85 – but can be well worth it. Whether you choose this extra option or not, I will include the ordering information in case you want to order the remedy yourself in the future.
Placenta Prints and Umbilical Heart/Spiral
The prints are done before I wash and prepare the placenta. They are printed with the natural placenta blood on acid-free artists paper. Some families frame them as art or some just choose to save them as personal keepsakes. The prints are unique imprints that displays the size, shape and general appearance of the placenta and also reminds us why the placenta is often referred to as “the tree of life.”
The umbilical heart is the dried umbilical cord in the shape of a heart or spiral. This is another keepsake to save or use any way you like. Some people have cultural or spiritual significance attached to this original connector between mother and child. Other people save it along with baby’s first hair cutting or first tooth.
Additionally, you will need to be prepared in a couple of ways:
Talk to your care provider about taking your placenta home right after the birth. If you are birthing in a hospital, many of them have a general policy of holding the placenta for 5 to 15 days and then discarding it without notifying you. You will need to make special arrangements with the hospital staff to either release it right away, or have it immediately frozen rather than refrigerated if they insist on keeping it for a while. You are not required to explain why you want your placenta, if you don’t want to. Your placenta legally belongs to you. If, upon admission, you are asked to sign anything regarding care of the afterbirth, you may write “I do not consent” on the form.
In your birth plan and at the time of birth, insist on delayed cord clamping (although this may not be possible in emergency situations). By delaying cord clamping and cutting until the cord has totally stopped pulsing, the placenta is naturally drained of fetal blood. Early cord clamping leaves the placenta engorged with blood and the baby may be deprived of up to half of his or her blood volume and precious stem cells! For more information, please watch this wonderful, short videoon the benefits of delayed cord clamping.
Please contact me shortly after the birth – ideally, the fresh placenta preparation process should be started within the first 2 or 3 days. If it cannot be started while fresh (in cases of the hospital holding the placenta for a period of time) then it will need to be frozen. Fresh placenta is better than frozen but frozen is far better than spoiled placenta.
If you are going to freeze your placenta, the ideal method is in doubled zip-lock gallon sized bags with all the excess air squeezed out, sealed and frozen within an hour or so of its birth. Please let me know if you have any other questions about placenta medicine and art or if you have any other cultural, religious, personal or dietary placenta rituals you would like me to help facilitate as well.
Mother Tree Birth Doula Placenta Specialist