Placenta Encapsulation with Tara Parish

Tara Parish is an incredible birth and postpartum doula in Madison who also happens to do placenta encapsulation. She has worked with several of my clients who wanted their placentas encapsulated. She's also a mother to 4 kids, while also running a natural skin care business, Shade Tree Naturals. I was lucky enough to chat with her about what placenta encapsulation is and what the benefits are. Check it out!

Can you start off by sharing a little bit about the history of preparing the placenta for consumptions?

Placentophagy (from 'placenta' + Greek φαγειν, to eat; also referred to as placentophagia) is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth.

The first known documentation of placenta remedies was in China in the 1500's with some scattered reports of dried placenta powder being used for medicinal purposes in the 1700's in the UK, but it wasn't until the 1980's when Raven Lang, an American midwife, brought back the Traditional Chinese Method of placenta consumption by promoting it at a MANA conference in America.

For centuries the placenta has received ceremonial handling by many cultures around the world. In Western medicine the human placenta is usually regarded as nothing more than human waste. 

Why would postpartum folks want to encapsulate their placenta? What are the benefits? 

The benefits of encapsulating your placenta are anecdotal and vary from person to person. The placenta contains many hormones that are beneficial during the postpartum period including oxytocin (the love hormone), prolactin (promotes milk production) and hemoglobin (promotes iron production). With these hormones in play, it's believed that ingesting your placenta can help establish a good milk supply, prevent postpartum mood issues and prevent anemia, or iron deficiency. For example, in one study, 86% of women who consumed their placenta saw an increase in their milk supply within 4 days. 

What is your process for encapsulating placentas? Are there other ways to prepare placentas? 

I ask that my clients contact me as soon as they know they are in labor as a "heads up." I then ask them to contact me within 8 hours postpartum to pick up their placenta. As soon as I'm able I will pick up the placenta from their birthing place (home, hospital or birthing center). I try to make sure I can start my process within the same day to ensure the freshest capsules. The next step is to make my entire kitchen off limits to my family and to sanitize the whole space with a hospital grade cleaner or bleach solution. Once sanitized, the process starts with draining the placenta and umbilical cord of any extra blood (blood can upset the stomach). The placenta is then sliced into thin strips and placed in a food dehydrator for a minimum of 12 hours. At this point all equipment and counter space and sink are sanitized for a second time. Once fully dehydrated, the placenta is ground into a fine powder which I then put into capsules for consumption. Before this process begins, the space is sanitized for a third time. The capsules are placed in a jar with a desiccant packet to keep out moisture and are returned within 72 hours to the client with instructions. Placenta capsules are usually used in the first 6 weeks postpartum and additional capsules can be saved in the freezer for up to 2 years postpartum to use when the menstrual cycle returns, dips in milk supply, or as a mood/energy boost.

Some women who have a history of anxiety or panic attacks choose to have us prepare their placenta by lightly steaming it first which produces a slightly milder capsule.

Additionally, some women choose to have a piece of their placenta made into a tincture which will last indefinitely if stored properly. This is beneficial for use long term and can be used through menopause to help regulate hormones and moods as well as by a female child of the mother.

Did you have your placenta encapsulated with your little ones?

I did not encapsulate my placenta with my first son as I wasn't aware that it was something available to me at that time in my life.  My postpartum recovery was really tough with my first son and I chose to encapsulate my placenta with my two youngest sons and did feel really different postpartum.  If nothing else, I recommend it for the energy boost. ;)

Thanks so much, Tara! You can find Tara on Facebook and Beautiful Birth. You can find her skin care products at Shade Tree Naturals. 

Maggie Mehr