EPISODE #91

I Ate My Placenta
for My
Best
Friend

EPISODE #91

I Ate My Placenta
for My
Best
Friend

Lori and Elizabeth are as best-friendy as you get.

Lori-Eliz-hs-play-squareLori-Eliz-college-square

That’s them in high school and college. They even have best-friend tattoos.

Lori-Eliz-tattoos

Elizabeth, the shorter of the two, has always been crunchier than Lori. For example, Elizabeth’s vegan; Lori likes steak. But their differences never made them judge each other. Until they became parents.

Lori-Eliz-babies

Things got especially tense when placenta pills entered the picture. Tune in to this episode, to hear about the lengths some of us will go to, to keep our friends and our sanity. And listen to episode 90 to find out WTF placenta pills are, anyway.

If you liked this episode – our friends at the new Gimlet Media show, Science Vs, have just published a story about attachment parenting.

Resources for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Progress is a great resource for women with postpartum depression and anxiety, and they have a really helpful list of symptoms for both.

Postpartum Support International provides support for all kinds of moms, including military moms, incarcerated moms, and grieving moms. They even have this map that will help you locate local support for PPD.

Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts by Karen Klieman and Amy Wenzel is a book with info on postpartum anxiety for both moms and therapists.

The Worry Box Project is a really cool interactive website where you can read other moms’ worries and submit your own. It probably accomplishes the same kind of voyeuristic healing that Megan got from spying on her neighbor. Except without the spying.

Did we miss your favorite? Add it in the comments.

Have you parented differently from YOUR friend?
How so and what helped? Do tell.

Our sponsors for this episode are Kiwi CrateHooked on Phonics,  The Great Courses Plus, Thirdlove and Horizon Organics. Use these links to access special deals for LST listeners! 

11 thoughts on “EPISODE #91: I Ate My Placenta for My Best Friend

  1. I am a woman without children, and I have absolutely no opinion on placenta encapsulation of any kind, and so this is a comment only regarding the question of journalistic disinterestedness and ecumenicism. I was surprised and disappointed in Hillary’s obvious contempt for the practice — at times openly scoffing of the possible real (non-placebo) benefits of placenta encapsulation. Indeed, every time a case was made for it, Hillary was quick to jump in and reassure a straw-man public that even such kookie ideas should be given their fair hearing — before she quickly pinched her nose again. Such complacent scoffing is poor journalistic practice under any circumstances — if that is your attitude, why cover the topic in the first place? But more damning, journalistically speaking, is that in neither of the two episodes on the subject was the most fundamental, stare-you-in-the-face action undertaken — and here is where the essentially dismissive, even mocking tone is confirmed: how easy it might have been to interest a scientist or even simple lab technician to test a placenta pill for the presence of the hormones in question (oxytocin, etc.). It might be, potentially, as easy as a pregnancy blood test. Again, I know nothing about this, but logically it seems clear that if birth control pills (containing synthetic hormones) taken orally are known to occasionally affect women’s mood stability (as well as influencing a host of other physiological phenomena,) it stands to reason that if the hormones in placenta pills are present in a similarly “active” form even after the encapsulation process, they might very well have a powerful effect. That even this most basic research was not undertaken makes these two shows very easily the poorest of all the Longest Shortest Time episodes (I have listened to all of them) — rife with a bias of the most noxious kind precisely because it does not announce itself, and pretends to give fair hearing even as all of its rhetorical structures and “research” conspire to mock and deride the practice it apparently still thought interesting enough to highlight.

    1. I totally agree with you Ida, and thank you for pointing out that Hillary was bias. However, I do think that the Longest Shortest Podcast is not true journalism, in that Hilary inserts her point of view at various times, and frequently shares personal stories with the interviewee and listeners. But isn’t that the beauty of Podcasts? To me, this Podcast is about one woman’s story and her quest to connect with others and learn.

  2. Thank you for covering this subject.

    Since I saw a documentary on water births when I was about 16, I have been planning a home/water birth. I got pregnant when I was 32 and managed to find a midwife to accomplish what I have been dreaming and planning half of my life. My husband had heard about placenta consumption and asked me if that is something I’m interested in. Hell no, gross, I thought at first. Then, we started talking about it with my midwife who had on her team a doula who was certified to encapsulate placenta.

    I never quite understood how it worked and had questions like ‘do my hormones survive outside my body and through dehydration, refrigeration, and everything through the process?’ ‘Aren’t animals eating it just to kill smells or something? ‘

    I did not know for sure. But I decided to spend $250 in case it does something. My husband and I decided that it is so little to spend if we can save me from ppd.

    My baby was born at home after 24 hours of labor and 6 to 7 hours of pushing. (I know, why didn’t we go to the hospital? Well, because the baby was doing well and very very close to coming out during the whole time. AND I honestly could not bear a thought of sitting in the car for over a minute.) Anyhow, she was a healthy 21″ long 8 lb 9 oz baby.

    I started eating my placenta pills as directed. First few days, my baby had trouble latching and my nipple started bleeding. Then, she was jaundiced and had to stay at nicu for 24 hours. Then, several days later, we learned she was tongue tied and got it cut. Even after that, she was not gaining any weight. Struggles for many many days. During all that, my beautiful baby started getting this newborn acne and started looking so bad. When she cried, I swear I thought she looked like hell boy… I read all about how to help with the acne and saw that there was nothing much you can do. The baby is just going through hormonal changes, adjusting back to her normal self from all the dosage of pregnancy hormones.

    Then, it occurred to me… Am I making her acne worse by eating these pills that are supposedly full of pregnancy hormones?

    Gosh, it was impossible to find out the answer to that question. But when that thought came to me, I could not continue eating it.

    My baby was colicky, refused all bottles and pacifiers, and was a poor poor sleeper. I tried practicing attachment parenting and everything that I can, but nothing seemed to work. Through it all, my mental health was in good shape even after I stopped taking the pills.

    If anything, looking at the pills made me feel worse about the situation because they became a symbol of my helplessness. No matter how hard I tried, I cannot help my baby feel better or happier. Looking at the pills reminded me of the terrible acne and made me gag a little bit at times.

    I ended up surviving the most difficult phase without suffering from ppd. But at around 8 months, when my daughter continued to refuse sleeping (no sleep consultants could save us), I started feeling depressed and needed therapy. One may say that the pills could have saved me. I’d like to respond that my daughter going to sleep, accepting bottles or pacifier, or my husband coming home earlier could have saved me.

    So my experience tells me that placenta consumption is not always positive. I recently dumped all the pills out from my freezer into the compost bin. My daughter just turned 2 and is the happiest, smartest little girl. I did not need to hold on to some pills that may save me from something someday. I finally had the self respect (and not be swayed by others) to say that I don’t believe in it and that it is not for me.

  3. I can’t help but wonder whether having a friend who tried her hardest to understand the specific pressures Lori was under and supported and celebrated everything about her development as a mother, without judgement, would have been a more powerful antidepressant than placenta pills.

  4. I jjust st want to say bravo to Elizabeth and Lori for maintaining and growing their friendship through this time. Parenting can really stress a friendship … I have had more than a few fade away because of differences. I admire their understanding of each other and support.

    Also, I ate my placenta after both births and offer the service to other mamas. I did have baby blues and postpartum anxiety for 2ish months. I’ll never know if my symptoms may have been worse with out the placenta pills or if the pills made no impact. I plan to eat it again though. For what it’s worth, I ate s portion of my placenta raw (in smoothies) and thought that was more beneficial than the dried, so I may do that for the whole thing this time. I’m not a scientist, but that’s my experience.

  5. I had my placenta encapsulated after both of my children, after a friend of mine did hers and spoke quietly about how taking them seemed to lift her mood in those early tough days with a colicky baby. In my experience, taking the placenta pills seemed to stabilize my mood, calm down feelings of anxiety and worry, and made me feel like I was recovering more quickly. Some days I would forget to take them, and I noticed a marked change in my mood on the days I remembered. When my supply started to run low, I saved some of the pills in the freezer and used them when I felt I needed a lift, on my son’s first day of daycare, and the first time I went away for a night.
    My midwife with my second child was originally from China and she had been an obstetrician there but trained to be a midwife in Canada. She told me that in traditional Chinese medicine, placenta is highly sought out medicine for people with all sorts of ailments that might make them feel fatigued or weak. I totally get why!
    I’m really grateful I knew about encapsulation and an awesome naturopath in my town does it for $100. Like many things about pregnancy and parenting, I didn’t always know how I would feel about consuming my own placenta before I was pregnant. But then I felt obsessed with keeping my placenta and getting it to the naturopath right after my birth. Call it mother’s intuition…

  6. Thank you for discussing this topic, Hillary! I do wish you were a little less bias, but it is your podcast! I am a mother of a 2.5 year old healthy girl, and had my placenta encapsulated after her birth. I only have positive things to say about this experience.

    The pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, although we were ready, and I was worried about getting PPD. So I did everything I could to prepare myself – I took a long birthing class (11 weeks), read so many books, talked to other women about their birth stories, hired a doula, had a natural childbirth, and had my placenta encapsulated.

    The first 2 days after the birth were rough – not only physically, but also mentally. When my doula came to my house with the pills, I was so excited. I started taking them right away, and was able to taper off after a month. I still have some in my freezer for my (hopefully) next child. Perhaps this was a placebo effect, but whatever it was, it worked! I was feeling better after about 10 days and strongly believe that the pills helped me mentally recover from everything childbirth means.

    Sometimes I think people can be scared of the unknown, but there are so many things that other societies do that Americans do not. Let’s not say ‘ewe’ or ‘weird’ but rather ‘cool’ and ‘I want to learn more about why they do that.’ Thank you for starting a conversation in hopefully so many households.

  7. I considered encapsulating my placenta after my daughters birth, but talked to a friend who cooked and ate hers instead. She inspired me to do the same. We brought ours home from the hospital in what looked like a one gallon ice cream container and my husband prepared it for me: he chopped it into tiny pieces cooked it up with garlic and kale in butter and served it on toast. He even tried it. We agreed it was tasty- as long as you didn’t think too deeply about what you were eating. I can’t speak to its efficacy, but my recovery was pretty smooth.

  8. I’ve had two babies. I encapsulated (and consumed) my placenta after my first baby, and did not after my second. My first child was my first (and thus I had no idea what I was doing), he was a terrible sleeper, and I was getting used to my new life as a mom. Looking back, I definitely had postpartum anxiety and perhaps depression too. I don’t think the placenta pills really helped me at all. As Soojin suspected, once we sleep-trained and everyone was sleeping much better, my depression/anxiety virtually disappeared.

    My second child is my second (and thus I have a much better idea of what I’m doing), she’s an awesome sleeper, and I already know what life is like as a mom. So far (3 months in) I have no depression or anxiety this time.

    Given this extremely small sample size, I think that postpartum depression and anxiety has a lot more to do with how fussy your child is, how well your child sleeps, and how well-prepared you are for what it means to be a parent, and not whether or not you eat your placenta.

    Also I just wanted to say: I was surprised to read that Hillary sounded biased in this podcast. It sounded to me more like “our lawyers want us to make sure we say that there is no proven efficacy here, so proceed at your own risk.”

    1. Ellen, that’s an interesting and valuable interpretation!

      Also, not bias; just journalism. It’s what the research says at this stage. If the research changes, I may update.

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