Do people really eat their placenta?! Ye…yes they do; and it's not just celebrities. I ate my placenta. And I learned some things in the process I couldn't find anywhere on the internet in my research beforehand. In this post we'll look at my personal experience and what I wish I knew when trying to figure out if placenta pills are good for you, plus your more basic background information on the placenta and FAQs on the whole placenta encapsulation process! And at the very end, I share a checklist I'd go through before ever encapsulating my placenta again!
Table of Contents
Are Placenta Pills Good For You? Why I Won't Eat My Placenta Again
- What is the placenta?
- Why is that important?
- What does it mean to encapsulate your placenta?
- The process of encapsulating your placenta
- How many placenta pills should you expect?
- How many placenta pills do you take a day?
- Where to store your placenta pills
- What are the benefits of eating your placenta?
- What do placenta pills do?
- What does placenta taste like?
- Are placenta pills good for you? My experience…
- What I wish I knew before eating placenta pills
- Eating my placenta pills
- Here's what I can tell you that no internet search told me…
- Why I'm not taking placenta pills this pregnancy.
- Does insurance cover placenta encapsulation?
- How much does it cost to make your placenta into pills?
- Checklist I'd ask myself before encapsulating my placenta again
And just because I'm super mindful of this when reading anything pregnancy/postpartum related: This isn't some horror story as to why I won't eat my placenta again. So if you're nervous, don't be… I had done all the research on the benefits, risks, pros and cons to eating your placenta (will talk about those in this post) – but I learned some things in my own personal experience I hadn't seen shared or talked about really on the internet which is why I decided to write this post.
I'm not a doctor or a medical professional, just a mom who ate her placenta pills and learned a thing or two. This is not medical advice, just my experience. If you're wondering if placenta pills are good for you and looking for a new perspective from someone who has been there, you're in the right place! Today I'm answering all the FAQs on reported benefits, science basked risks, and sharing my personal experience!!! Let's dive in!
What is the placenta?
I'm not a doctor so here's a super basic, overly simplified explanation: the placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy in the uterus. It's basically the lifeline between you and your baby; providing oxygen and nutrients to your baby while also removing waste.
Here's the important thing to note about the placenta as it relates to placenta pills or eating your placenta: If you were just thinking to yourself “I thought the umbilical cord was the lifeline for the baby!” You'd be correct. The baby is attached to the placenta through the umbilical cord and the placenta attaches somewhere on the mother's uterus. So it's all connected. I'll circle back to this later in the post…
Why is that important?
Studies that have looked at umbilical cord blood samples have found over 280 chemicals and pollutants. It is noteworthy, studies evaluating the toxin load of newborns are very limited (that's an entirely different conversation). Read more here and here. Some of the things found have been known to cause cancer, are toxic to the brain and nervous system, or even have led to birth defects in animals.
Another study analyzed the first bowel movement of infants and found mercury in 84%, lead in 27%, and DDT (a pesticide that'd been banned 25 years earlier!!!) in 27%!
That last part is really key to what a lot of people have claimed:
Toxicity is transgenerational.
I believe I first heard Organic Olivia talk about this concept on her podcast (which I highly recommend). Essentially she explained that we carry the physical toxin load two generations back since we technically develop in our maternal grandmother's womb. So if you have some unexplained health issues, look not just at your mother, but your mother's mother (of course the entire family system is key, but you quite literally had a direct line from your maternal grandmother).
I'll circle back to all of this as it relates to my personal experience later in this post…
What does it mean to encapsulate your placenta?
Encapsulating your placenta is the process of turning the entire organ into placenta pills. My guess is that it's the most popular way to eat your placenta today.
The process of encapsulating your placenta:
When I encapsulated my placenta, I just filled out a form and gave it to my doula which allowed her to take the placenta from the hospital. She dropped it off with another doula who turned it into pills. Someone from their office dropped it off at my house the day we got home from the hospital.
In some states I think you need a court order? If placenta encapsulation is something you want to do, definitely get it all sorted out with the hospital or where you are delivering in advance.
Basically it took all of 48 hours (probably less, we just had to stay at the hospital a full 48 hours) to turn my placenta from a full on organ into placenta pills delivered right to my door.
How many placenta pills should you expect?
Each placenta is going to be a slightly different size, so the number of pills varies from person to person.
How many placenta pills do you take a day?
My placenta pills came in a jar with instructions. I'm going off of memory here from 2 years ago but I believe they recommended setting aside 14 pills (2 a day for up to 7 days) in the freezer for your first postpartum period. Beyond that I believe I took 2 or 3 pills a day, slowly dropping it down to 1-2, then 1 as I was running out of pills.
Where to store your placenta pills:
I kept my everyday placenta pills in the fridge and then had the other group set aside in the freezer for my postpartum period.
What are the benefits of eating your placenta?
The research is still out on the benefits of eating your placenta. Some say the risks are greater than the benefits, others say the benefits are a placebo effect. Nothing is conclusive from my understanding. But here's what people claim the benefits are:
- increases milk supply
- reduces chance of anemia
- boosts mood
- boosts energy
- decreases risk of postpartum depression
- balances hormones
Generally the idea here is that the placenta is loaded with vitamins and minerals (e.g. B12 for the energy boost, Iron for anemia, etc.) which provide benefits. Again, the benefits haven't been really scientifically proven – in fact, one study found placenta pills had no impact on women's postpartum iron levels.
With that said – I've read that some midwives will have mother's who are hemorrhaging during a homebirth eat a piece of her placenta after delivery to stop the hemorrhage. Yes, eat the placenta raw. And it reportedly works.
What do placenta pills do?
Placenta pills basically let you consume the placenta without – you know thinking about consuming your placenta haha!
It's really important you either know what you are doing or send your placenta to someone who knows what they are doing and you trust. There are no regulations in place about safety standards during the encapsulation process. The CDC cautions that improperly encapsulated placenta can develop harmful bacteria that could make you or baby sick (if breastfeeding).
What does placenta taste like?
Since I've only ever consumed my placenta as placenta pills, I can only tell you what it tasted like for me. When they encapsulated my placenta they added a few herbs and things to it so the pills had a floral kind of taste to them. It wasn't bad; just strong.
Are placenta pills good for you? My experience…
Like I mentioned, the science isn't really in support of placenta pills. I knew that, and decided to eat my placenta anyway.
I think it's a personal choice that is unique to each person. I've heard some women RAVE about the experience and swear they were the key to an easy postpartum experience.
What I wish I knew before eating placenta pills:
Remember earlier how I was talking about the toxin load of newborn infants? Yeah, I wish I would've known that before eating my placenta.
I always thought I was a healthy person – ESPECIALLY while pregnant. I've never smoked a cigarette or done hard drugs in my life. Nor have I drank alcohol (not even a sip) or smoked marijuana since I was a teenager (over a decade ago!!). I exercise regularly and eat healthy; even through pregnancy. Typically opting for plants over processed and organic options. Heck, my favorite beverage is WATER!
Never in a million years did I consider myself “toxic.” Nor did I consider the fact that both my mother and maternal grandmother have had cancer, tumors, or other health issues all related to their feminine organs (uterus, breasts, and bladder – which I'll add to the list since it's so close to the uterus) and the fact that I developed in my grandmother's womb!
Literally the month after I got pregnant – but didn't know it yet – I started to take our health a little more seriously. I remember our dear friend Shaman Durek was staying with us, he took a sip of water from our Brita and immediately spit it out saying it was toxic toilet bowl water. I was confused – uhhh we were using a Brita! It's filtered!
Then I looked up our city water and learned about all the toxins. Immediately I bought this water filtration system that I used throughout my pregnancy. Two years later, the news story broke about how contaminated our city water was… Fortunately we moved about a month after I had my daughter to a city with much cleaner water and no fluoride added PLUS our new home already had a whole house water filtration system on top of that.
NOTE: if you're pregnant, please please please make sure there is no added fluoride in your water!
Anywayyy… eating my placenta pills:
I remember feeling “off” as soon as I started taking them. Everytime I'd go to have one, I'd get a tightness in my throat. I actually was thinking about stopping them… then I hit that 6 day postpartum hormone crash and just couldn't stop crying for days. I was desperate for something to even me out so I pushed passed the “off” feeling and continued with them in hopes I'd feel better faster.
Beyond that 6 day postpartum hormone crash – I felt okay. My milk supply was always great (I attribute that more so to the week long cluster feed my newborn daughter indulged in), I never had anemia or PPD, and generally my energy levels and mood were fairly even given that I just had a baby.
Was I tired? Yes. Was it unbearable? No.
Did I cry? Yes. Was I depressed? No.
Did I feel balanced? HELL NO. I'd fluctuate between sweating my butt off, to freezing. From laughing to crying. Was it unmanageable? Not at all. It felt “normal” if that makes sense? Was it normal? I have no clue. It just kind of was. I was happy, blissed out, and recovering from a life changing event. It was a beautiful mess.
But every time I'd go to take a placenta pill something in me said no. Personally, I remember even having the thought, “I didn't start to feel so emotionally volatile until I started taking these pills.” It's a chicken and the egg situation – I can't really tell you if the pills triggered me feeling off or helped my off-ness feel not as intense?
Here's what I can tell you that no internet search told me…
I'm RH- (a blood type factor), not all women have it, but if you do, you certainly find out while pregnant. Basically if you have a baby that is also RH- you're good. But if you have a baby who is RH+ there's a risk of what's call “sensitization.” If you get sensitized, they need to monitor you in future pregnancies to ensure if you have another positive baby your body doesn't see the incompatible blood type as an invader and attack it. There's so much more to this but that's the high level back story to why I'm writing this post…
Recently I saw someone ask, “If you are RH- and have an RH+ baby can eating your placenta cause issues?” I read through hundreds of women's experiences – and many mom's like me (RH- with an RH- baby) felt “off” while taking their placenta pills too. Many moms with our shared blood type situation didn't feel off. Other mom's who had an RH incompatible babies felt great and had no issues consuming their placenta pills with an RH+ baby, or vice versa. In other words: everyone had a unique experience. Blood type didn't seem to matter.
Which pushes me back to my original hypothesis:
Eating your placenta pills has more to do with your toxin load than you may realize.
Over the first year of my daughter's life we dealt with health issues every other month until we landed in the ER after an anaphylactic reaction. You can learn more about that experience and our health journey in 2020 here.
Seeing how overburdened my daughter's toxin load was, in addition to everything I've since learned over these last few years, my personal belief (not rooted in science or anything), is that I felt “off” while taking my placenta pills because of the toxin load in me/my placenta at the time.
Which is why I'm not taking placenta pills this pregnancy.
If you watched our diet change video you know we made a lot of great swaps in our diets, and we've made amazing one's in our cupboards. We've passed a ton of parasites, candida overgrowths, and so much we didn't even know we had going on. But since I went from pregnancy, to breastfeeding, and now breastfeeding while pregnant, I haven't had the opportunity to do a proper detox like I really want to do. I know my toxin load is lower now than it was during my first pregnancy, but I know I still have work to do.
I'm not saying I'll never take placenta pills again. Nor do I think it's a bad or good idea to take them. I think it's just really important to educate yourself and listen to your gut.
I knew the perceived benefits and the known risks, but still felt called to it. I'm happy I did with my first pregnancy and have no regrets. It was a piece of a very large jigsaw puzzle to our family health that I don't think I would've ever understood had we not gone down that road. Which is why I say it's a completely personal choice that only you can make.
Does insurance cover placenta encapsulation?
Not to my knowledge.
How much does it cost to make your placenta into pills?
Expect to pay anywhere from $125-425 to make your placenta into pills.
You can DIY the process (I wouldn't trust myself) which may cost less if you have a dehydrator, gloves, capsules, and a capsule machine.
Checklist I'd ask myself before encapsulating my placenta again:
If I were to give myself a checklist of when I'd feel comfortable eating placenta pills again it'd look like this:
- Have I done a parasite cleanse within 6 months of getting pregnant? (My daughter was born with parasites from us)
- Have I been consuming as minimally processed foods as possible? And when doing so, have they been organic? (think breads, chips, etc.)
- Do I have mercury fillings (I don't, but I would personally NOT attempt placenta consumption if I had them)…
- Have I been exposed to mold that I know about? If so, don't do it.
- Have I done a heavy metal detox recently?
- Is my home cleared out from toxins/chemicals (think water supply, cleaners, topical products, air filters, plastics, pesticides, fluoride free toothpaste like this one, etc.)?
- Have I worked on stress and trauma? Do I have a plan for stress/trauma while pregnant?
- Are my detox pathways open? In other words, are you pooping regularly and sweating daily?
- Have I done a liver cleanse or do I know if my liver is functioning properly? Your liver/kidneys are going to not only be removing your waste, but your fetus's too! So it's important to clean these up beforehand. It's my biggest regret…
If you watched my 6 week pregnancy vlog you know I was about to do a liver cleanse BOTH times I found out I was pregnant!) – I've known for a few years now (I was already pregnant with my first) that my liver has needed some support from chinese medicine practitioners, functional medicine doctors and shamans I'd worked with (Western medicine only showed elevated enzymes in my bloodwork, but the doctors were never concerned about it). What I realized today is that traditional doctors are great for severe issues – but they aren't the best at preventive care. My liver was trying to tell us something that traditional Western medicine just isn't trained to look at. I've found better success with TCM (traditional chinese medicine), functional medicine practitioners, and other alternative health workers when it comes to preventative/finding root cause stuff.
Are placenta pills good for you?
I think only you can answer that. Good is subjective. The science really only supports the risks of eating your placenta, not the benefits.
Personally, I'm happy I did even though I wouldn't do it again.