Monday, December 5, 2011

Encapsulating your Placenta

During the first trimester of pregnancy, one of the most ridiculous things happens: the body creates a new organ on par with a liver or a set of lungs. This doubles the amount of blood that the mother is houses, and makes her tired and hungry. It's discarded after the baby is born and most people don't think about them ever again.

When my golden retriever had puppies when I was little, I watched in amazement as she ate absolutely everything that came out of her except her babies. My parents narrated this, explained this, and still the image was foreign enough to last me a lifetime. I later learned that people are one of the few mammals that don't eat their placentas (camels are the others. Why? I think it's because camels are assholes). But the explanation for doing it always seemed reasonable: that it gives the birther much needed iron (and, therefore, energy) and that it can even go a long way towards balancing the body and decreasing the chance of postpartum depression.

I've heard of people planting placentas beneath trees and I've heard of the very adventurous eating them by frying, blending into a smoothie, or even throwing down and munching the thing raw right then and there. None of that seemed a likely outcome for my wife. But since she has a rich history of PPD, we thought it was worth exploring different ways to ingest the placenta.

My wife cannot even cook a steak. This is how grossed out she is by raw meat. She likes cooked meat but refused to discuss eating the placenta ("Think about it! A meat that you can eat without killing anyone!" didn't serve as a good argument). So I took on the task of encapsulation.

My midwife has had some experience with the process and she took a few minutes to explain the process to me. What's better, she even loaned me all the equipment that I needed. The entire process (not counting dehydration) only took an hour or maybe a little more. I'll write out my process below; I was going to take pictures for this purpose, but my wife urged me against it:

1. First, you have to wash the placenta. Take the placenta and rinse it off thoroughly in a clean sink. Cut off what's left of the cord and of the membrane--it's too stringy and very hard to cut up with the rest of it.

2. Slice the placenta into long strips. This was a little hard to do since I had frozen it (I couldn't get around to it for a few days and knew it was better to keep it on ice) and my hands kept getting cold. A very sharp knife is understandably helpful during this process.

3. Lay the strips out jerky-style in the food dehydrator. We used a Magic Chef dehydrator that you can buy in any Target. Since it wasn't a huge cut of meat, it only needed two shelves. We put it out in the garage so that we didn't have to think that we were smelling it. We left it on for 48 hours.

4. Once the strips are very dark, grind them up in a coffee grinder. I snapped them into shorter pieces first. Make sure you have a nice space laid out for this, with something disposable like newspaper down--it gets dusty.

5. Now, the only part that takes any real time. You need empty capsules to fill. You can do this individually by hand, or by using a "Capsule Machine." They are not expensive, but they are totally worth it, from my point of view (of course, my was lent to me, so I paid for nothing).

6. Make sure the capsules are closed tightly, no matter what method you use. Then put them in a bag!

Our placenta yielded about 250 capsules. My wife takes three a day along with her other vitamin supplements. Does it work? Is it worth it? We're not set up for an actual scientific experiment and there are just too many variables to consider doing one at this level. In fact, there are very few scientific studies about this and it shouldn't surprise you--where's the money in stopping PPD without antidepressants? A placenta, after all, is absolutely free.

Here's what we know: this is my wife's fourth birth. We are Eight weeks out of it and she is not on any kind of antidepressant. This is the first time that has been the case. Is it the placenta? We can't be sure, but we'll take the win any way we can!


erin said...

Placentas are truly magic medicine. I am so curious about the camel connection. Did you know their milk is the most similar to humans? hmmm. Off to do a placenta myself! the midwive's job is a curious one.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! Not sure it's something I'll be doing, but fascinating nonetheless. Also a note about mammals eating the placentas - most prey animals in the wild do it for safety, so that predators don't find it and know there is a newborn nearby. Pretty cool.