I’ve been wanting to write a quick post about placenta encapsulation for ages. I had it done after Alaina was born and I’m a total convert. A month or so ago, the topic came up on a breastfeeding email list I belong to, with concern raised by several IBCLCs about the possibility of hormonal disruption of milk supply with placenta ingestion. Several women stated that they would not be comfortable doing it until there is some real evidence to support it. All I had to offer to the conversation was my own personal experience (and, I’m well aware that the plural of anecdote is NOT “data”) and also the observation that it is common practice for mammals to ingest the placenta. Of course, mammals eat it all at once and don’t powder it up into little capsules first, but then again, mammals also don’t wear socks or read stories to their kids or drive cars or sleep in beds in warm comfy houses either. I only found minimal evidence online via these two articles (which I think cite the same sources): Research Studies supporting Placenta Encapsulation and Scientific Research (from Placenta Benefits which certifies placenta encapsulators). Edited to add: there is a literature review now available at this site.
Anyway, this is what I shared with the list about my own experience:
I had it done with my last baby (born in January) and I’m a total convert. I have never felt better during postpartum. I joked that I was “placenta powered.” I felt and looked great—good color in my face, etc. Tons of energy. Total opposite of my other postpartum experiences in which I felt completely depleted and run over by a truck. I didn’t even ever feel like taking naps during the early weeks—you know how new mothers are often all strung out and exhausted. I was vibrant, cheerful, and alert. (I also swallowed a small piece of it raw, immediately pp.) I do not think there is any real research on milk supply and I had/have the same questions as you—if it is putting those “discarded” hormones back into the body, couldn’t it have a milk supply reducing effect? My guess is that the amount you take is so small (one placenta makes around 100 capsules), that it does not have a significant impact on supply one way or the other. I only have anecdotal evidence to offer in favor of it. In addition to various long-distance friends, three in-person friends have also done it during the last six months. Three of the four of us have had oversupply—one of which had not had oversupply with her other three children (my other friend and I had oversupply with previous children who we did not do placenta encapsulation with), though she is tandem nursing, so I suspect that as the cause more than placenta (she also has had mastitis with the current nursling).
I had less trouble with oversupply this time around than with previous children—my first baby and I struggled with it for 10 months, my second baby and I did 12 hour block feedings to get it under control. With my new baby, I started block feeding her from birth (I know this isn’t an officially recommended strategy, but I truly think it made a very positive difference for us). While we still had some issues with it, including several days of 12 hour blocks and one day with 24 hours on one side only (her choice, not mine!), it was much less stressful than my previous experiences. (And, BTW, I did have a couple of plugged duct incidents that quickly resolved with ginger tea compresses.)
Anyway, IMHO, placenta encapsulation= awesome. I really support it!
Oh, and one side effect I did experience was bad headaches when I started “weaning” off the placenta pills. I’ve always been sensitive to hormone changes provoking headaches (get one with ovulation and then again with menstruation, etc.).
As I was typing and thinking about my experiences, some pictures came to mind and so in this post I want to do a photographic comparison of how I looked at 3 days postpartum with each baby. (I left out Noah’s post birth pictures, because how I look in those is complicated by grief as well as blood loss.)
Of course, when this picture was taken I had actually hardly ingested any of the placenta, but for me, it visually sums up the vastly different physical recovery experience of this most recent postpartum time. I also think part of the difference is also in my emotional relief at her live birth!