EPISODE #90

A Childless Man Makes Edible Placenta

EPISODE #90

A Childless Man Makes Edible Placenta

Maybe you’ve heard how some moms are eating their placentas? Kim Kardashian did it. So did January Jones and Gaby Hoffman. They say it helped save them from postpartum depression.

Usually, when women do this, they’re not outright eating the placenta; they’re turning it into pills. Well, we wanted to know more about how the placenta, which sustains a baby inside the womb, goes from raw organ to pill—and if those pills even work. So, as part of our Childless Men series, we invited Radiolab’s Latif Nasser (above) to come take a class in placenta pill-making, aka placenta encapsulation. Though Latif knew nothing about placentas, he has a PhD in the history of medicine, so we figured he’d have some illuminating thoughts on this baffling practice.

Doula Amethyst Herstens has a business making placenta pills, among other placenta things, and she came out to walk us through the process. (And, heads up: there are pictures of placenta in this post. Nothing too gory but, y’know, it’s placenta.)

Yes, Amethyst bedazzled those aprons herself

Yes, Amethyst bedazzled those aprons herself

Amethyst brought along her giant tub of stuff, and put Latif to work.

Latif-print-squareLatif-placenta-square-2

First, Latif made a placenta print with food coloring—which some moms hang on their walls. Then he made the pills. Here are some of the steps along the way. That heart-shaped thing is the umbilical cord. Amethyst dehydrates that as a keepsake for her clients.

placenta-dehydrator-squareplacenta-pills-square

Here’s the thing about placenta consumption. There’s very little research on it. And the research that exists doesn’t tell us much. Join us, as Latif and the LST staff try to make sense of this growing postpartum trend.

P.S. If you’re interested in the history of cultural practices and rituals around the placenta, check out this fascinating paper. Don’t worry, it’s not gross.

And if you want to hear Latif Nasser talk about the man who gave us modern pain relief (yep, it’s inspired by labor pains!), check out this video:

Have you ingested YOUR placenta?
Did you feel anything? Or not? Share your experience, down in the comments.

 

Our sponsors for this episode are Havenly (code: LONGSHORT), Hooked on Phonics,  Icon Undies (code: LONGSHORT), Bumby Box (code: LONGEST), Thirdlove and Horizon Organics. Use the promo codes at checkout for a special discount.

54 thoughts on “EPISODE #90: A Childless Man Makes Edible Placenta

  1. Does anyone know (or has Amethyst heard of anyone) using placenta pills to help with IVF? My husband & I had to do IVF to get pregnant with our first baby, and I still have some placenta pills leftover from her birth. I was kind of saving them to “help” with the crazy levels of hormones/injections/etc required throughout the IVF process, but now that we are getting close to the point of possibly doing IVF for baby #2, I’m not sure if it may interfere with the drug (hormone) protocol prescribed by my doctor? Any thoughts, research, ideas, comments would be appreciated.

    1. Good question, Bethany! I suggest checking with your health care professional, as this site (and others!) should not be used for medical advice. Best of luck in trying to conceive!

  2. Hi! I had my placenta encapsulated mostly because I had a family member close to me who suffered from PPD. It was really scary for me to think about going through the same thing, as she was suicidal for months on end and didn’t want to see her baby for the first yer of its life. So, I figured I would do everything I could to try to avoid it. I did acupuncture all through my pregnancy, I got my placenta encapsulated, I started therapy, I even went to a chiropractor because my doula said having your spine in proper alignment can help avoid emotional distress. To be honest, I thought it was all bullshit. I didn’t believe in any of it and I didn’t expect any of it to work (except for maybe the therapy). Anyway, long story short, three days after giving birth, I wasn’t functional. I was crying all day and a lot of the night. I felt so overwhelmed and out of control that I thought I couldn’t be a mother. I didn’t even want to go pick up the placenta pills once they were ready because I felt like there was nothing anyone or anything could do to help how I was feeling. Thankfully, my husband insisted that we go get them and at least give it a shot. Within 24 hours I was back to my old self. I wasn’t crying, I was engaged with my baby, and I was excited about my future as a mother. I find it hard even now to attribute this to the placenta pills because it was such a marked difference, and I still sort of think placenta encapsulation is some gross hippie-dippie joke. But I’ll absolutely get it done with my future children. On the off chance that it was responsible for my turn around, it’s too valuable a resource for me to pass up. Anyway, that’s my story.

  3. Please do not take capsules if pregnant or wishing to become pregnant. Your body has such a delicate balance of hormones when pregnant. :) Thank you for helping to normalize placenta encapsulation. I look forward to checking out the rest if your podcasts!

  4. I just listened to this show, so I’m late to the party here but still want to contribute. I had two very similar births–very fast labors in a birth center (actually same midwife both times), pretty severe tearing both times, both babies were mildly jaundiced but otherwise healthy, and both had tongue ties that were resolved within the first few days of their lives. With my first, my recovery was so difficult. I felt like I’d been run over, I bled pretty heavily the full six weeks, breastfeeding was extremely difficult, I was exhausted, etc etc etc. With my second, I very seriously considered encapsulating my placenta. I hadn’t really heard about it with my first, but I guess it was gaining popularity when I was pregnant with my second. I ultimately decided not to do it for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I just felt uneasy about the potentially unknown side effects. In fact, I read some accounts (don’t remember where now) of psychotic episodes linked to placenta consumption. So I decided not to do it. My recovery after my second (which actually had a slightly worse tear) was SO MUCH EASIER. The bleeding was lighter and stopped much sooner, my milk came in faster and fuller (common with a second child anyway), my mood was better, etc. It’s so interesting to me when people talk about using women who’ve not consumed the placenta after a first birth and did it for a later one as a sort of scientific comparison. My experience tells me there is no comparison. Both of my births were very similar, but the postpartum experiences were so different just on their own. It’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison at all. Had I encapsulated my placenta, I would’ve thought it was the cure-all, but I think there is a lot to be said for your body knowing how to do things a little better the second time around.

  5. Wow! Both my children never knew when to leave the womb and had to be induced. My daughter ran out of amniotic fluid because my placenta had stopped nourishing her. This almost happened with my son too. After both labours my doctor made a point of showing me my ageing, calcified and smelly placenta. It definitely never appeared tasty!

  6. I had my placenta encapsulated after I read about it online from others who have taken. Placenta consumption was also practiced for non-mothers in my culture as a health remedy to treat or prevent an illness such as, treating respiratory illness. I took it to prevent postpartum depression and postpartum recovery, which I did not experience PD and had a speedy recovery. I am note sure if the pills helped, but i figured it wouldn’t help to try and it seemed to worked for me. Even if it’s a placebo effect, it did help me feel better a new mom general. And I think I would have it encapsulated again when I have my second baby.

    As I was listening to this episode, I realized that I didn’t even ask partner if he’s okay with me encapsulated my placenta. I just informed him what I wanted to do and he was supportive.

  7. Great story.
    I ate my placenta fresh, directly after birth because it seemed the most physiologic. Since the vast majority of mammals eat their placenta (even herbivores – and it’s not just because of predators). Why should myself as a mammal be any different? I’m glad you touched on this in the pod cast.
    I don’t know about all the claims, but I do know 2 things. It contains oxytocin and highly bioavailable iron.
    Ive had 4 children. I didn’t get to eat the placenta with my 1st and 3rd births because I had hospital births and something about it being handled in a hospital room turned my instinct against consuming it. With my second I ate about 4 oz of it, cut into nickel sized pieces and about 2 more oz mixed with V8 in a blender. The raw placenta was delicious! Like steak tar tar- placenta sashimi. . We humans have very large placenta proportional to our babies’ size; I couldn’t imagine eating the whole thing in one sitting like other animals. My midwife cut the rest and bagged it for me, but again my instinct was to not eat it in a delayed fashion. (I ended up moving that placenta 5 times and keeping it for 9 years- until my freezer went out one stormy day)
    That was the placenta I ate most “naturally” I had significantly less post partum bleeding with that birth than all my others. Bleeding slowed at 1 week post partum. My 1st and 3rd births bleeding continued for 6 weeks.
    My 4th birth was an outlier. I had a fragmented placenta and some retained placenta which took a whole to resolve. Eating a small amount of placenta was not nearly enough to fix that problem.

Say Something

Commenting Guidelines Curiosity and spirited discussion are welcome; personal attacks are not. We reserve the right to reject comments for any reason.

SUBSCRIBE