There is a risk to ingesting your placenta.
Let’s get that out of the way, right at the beginning. Anyone who tells you there is not isn’t being honest with you. At Colorado Mountain Doulas, we believe in informed consent. Everything has risk, even the most natural supplement, oil, or vitamin.
In the same way that one person can diffuse oils in their homes 24/7, while another person (me) can take one whiff of high-quality lavender oil and begin having instant sneezing fits and a runny nose; everyone reacts to their placenta pills differently. The benefits of placenta encapsulation, while anecdotal, can be truly life-changing, for some. From increased energy and milk supply to elevated mood in people with a history of postpartum depression, there are a lot of reasons more and more families are choosing encapsulation as an integral part of their postpartum care. As with everything related to pregnancy, labor, and recovery from birth, make sure to use your B.R.A.I.N when it comes to encapsulation.
This week the CDC published a paper stating that they do not recommend ingesting your placenta. Their conclusion is based on one case study, of one placenta, with questionable safety protocols in place.
- This placenta left the sight of the owner. There is no way to know how it was handled.
- There is no mention of steaming this placenta. Food handling regulations require that meat be cooked at a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at that temperature, restaurants are required to put warnings on their menus for those that choose to eat their meat rare.
- The range of dehydration stated in the study was 115-165. That’s a large range, most of which is well below safely protocols, not to mention, that dehydrating is not cooking.
The original study also states:
“expressed breast milk did not yield GBS” and “transmission from other colonized household members could not be ruled out”.
There are big questions here. If the breast milk was not infected and transmission from another family member cannot be ruled out, how did the baby actually get re-infected? The Mayo Clinic website states,
“Many healthy people carry group B strep bacteria in their bodies. Group B strep bacteria aren’t sexually transmitted, and they’re not spread through food or water. You may carry group B strep in your body for just a short period of time, it may come and go, or you may always have it.”
The information is unclear but that does not negate the fact that there are risks to ingesting your placenta and only you can make the decision to do so, or not.
You only have one placenta per baby you carry in your body. If you would like to experience the benefits of consuming your placenta in pill form, here are some things to look for.
- Price. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Proper training, equipment, disposable supplies, proper sanitizing and the time involved in processing is not cheap. You want your Colorado Postpartum Placenta Specialist (PPS) to spare no expense when caring for your placenta.
- Training and certification.Did your encapsulator take an in-person, hands-on training with a recognized organization? Do they have, or are they actively working towards getting certified? If they chose to apprentice with another encapsulator, was that encapsulator certified to teach? What were their safety standards, and has your encapsulator moved on to begin certification? YouTube is wonderful, but not a great place to learn proper respect and safety protocol for encapsulation.
- Transportation. This is a gray area when it comes to the law. As placenta encapsulation is unregulated, the closest laws currently available have to do with organ donation. Organ Donor Gov website clearly states, “OPOs [Organ procurement organizations] must be certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and abide by CMS regulations. By federal law, all OPOs must be members of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). All OPOs are members of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO)” According to this, placenta encapsulators should not be transporting other people’s organs unless they are certified organ procurement organizations. You (or a close family member) should transport your own placenta home, where it should be processed.
- Process. Postpartum Placenta Specialists should be open about their entire process, and willing to have you watch every single step. To follow the most up-to-date information with regards to blood-borne pathogens and food handling, the raw method is not recommended. The minimum temperature for cooking meat is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Even those on a raw food diet can heat the food up to 118 degrees. “Due to the risk of food poisoning, a raw food diet isn’t recommended for pregnant women, young children, seniors, people with weak immune systems, and those with chronic medical conditions like kidney disease.” –Web MD Your placenta should be cleaned, steamed, and dehydrated, with nothing added to it.
- Safety. This is for you and your PPS. They should ask in writing about possible blood-borne illnesses you carry and you should answer honestly. The risk of placenta encapsulation doesn’t just lie with you and your ingestion. The process itself carries a risk for you both. Transportation should follow the world health organization guidelines for organ transport. There should be written requirements for the amount of time your placenta can be on ice and in the refrigerator vs. needing to be frozen. There should be requirements for how long it can be frozen and still be processed. If your placenta is removed from you for testing, there is no way to guarantee what it has come into contact with. It should not be encapsulated. Infection in the placenta rules out encapsulation. Certain other illnesses rule out encapsulation. Your placenta should be processed in your own microbiome. Your Postpartum Placenta Specialist should use as many disposable items as possible, reducing the number of items that are sanitized and re-used between clients. Your kitchen should be cleaned and sanitized before and after processing, on both days. Nothing should be in the processing area. No food can be prepared in the kitchen during processing, and a double barrier should always exist between your placenta and cooking/eating surfaces. Your PPS should protect themselves with shoes, clothing, hand, eye, mouth and hair coverings.
Placenta encapsulation is not right for everyone. It is a serious endeavor that should be respected and taken seriously. For some, placenta encapsulation is a life-changing service. At Colorado Mountain Doulas, we promise to always follow the most recent safety protocols.
We will never:
- keep your placenta in our fridge or freezer alongside our family’s leftovers.
- process your placenta in our own homes, where you cannot watch the process or be privy to our level of cleanliness, our family members and their illnesses, our pet hair, etc.
- re-use unnecessary supplies between clients
- add anything to your placenta
- transport your placenta out of your sight
We will always:
- adhere to the most up-to-date safety standards
- maintain certification and continuing education
- provide you with your own transportation kit, which adheres to the World Health Organization guidelines
- encapsulate in your home
- use disposable, one-time-use equipment when possible
- sanitize all re-usable equipment between clients
- sanitize your kitchen before and after processing
- encourage you to make your own decisions regarding your family and it’s safety
- steam AND dehydrate at temperatures considered safe for consumption
For more information about placenta encapsulation standards in Colorado, check out these blog posts from our Postpartum Placenta Specialist friends, following the same safety standards as Colorado Mountain Doulas. And if you decide that placenta encapsulation is right for you, we offer safe and professional in-home placenta encapsulation in Denver, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, and all other surrounding Colorado towns.
7 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Encapsulate Your Placenta- (hint: we’re the Sheriff)
What You Need to Know About the CDC Placenta Paper