Hi, my name is Heather, and I ate my placenta.
Wait, let’s try that again.
Hi, my name is Heather, and I did a DIY placenta encapsulation.
Okay, that sounds better.
Eighty percent of women struggle with some kind of postpartum mood disorder. Many struggle with breastfeeding. The vast hormonal changes that take place postpartum – well – they can send you on a roller coaster ride.
I hired someone to do my placenta encapsulation when my second baby was born. After reading about the benefits of placenta encapsulation online (and some scientific research), I decided it was something I needed to try.
After my daughter, Julia was born, a doula came to our home to encapsulate my placenta. I watched her meticulously carry out the processes over the course of two days. I was absolutely fascinated. Unfortunately, despite paying $200 for the encapsulation, I didn’t do a great job at remembering to take the capsules. They’re still in my freezer, 4.5 years later. But, I can say that they did help, when I was taking them consistently.
When our third baby, William was born, we didn’t have the extra money to dish out on encapsulation, so I started researching how to do it myself. I also consider myself #CrunchyAF, so how could I not? I was shocked at how easy it sounded, but terrified to do it myself. I hate bodily fluids, and I’m extremely squeamish. Back in middle school, I blacked out watching my friend pierce her ears herself. I wasn’t sure if I could follow through with my DIY plan, but I also knew I wanted to balance my postpartum hormones as much as possible, and I felt encapsulation was necessary.
So, I did it myself! Because I had watched the encapsulation process so closely the first time around, I was confident I could do it myself the second time.
Here are the tools I used, followed by the method.
Placenta Encapsulation Tools
- Capsules (’00” size)
- The Capsule Machine
- Bamboo skewers
- Stainless steel steamer
- Magic Bullet (or other food processor)
- Containers for storage (these are the ones my doula used)
- Fresh ginger root
- 1 jalapeno pepper
Placenta Encapsulation Steps
I chose the Traditional Chinese Method of placenta encapsulation, which means I steamed it with a few specific items of fresh produce before making the capsules. The thinking behind this method is that birth leaves your body & energy cold, and this method of preparation warms you.
- Tell your medical team your plans. I told my doctor during my postpartum visits that I planned to encapsulate my placenta. The medical team needs to know, so that they can store it properly for you after delivery, versus throwing it away as medical waste.
- Bring the placenta home ASAP. After delivery, one of my nurses put the placenta in some kind of a medical Tupperware-type container with a lid, and my husband brought it home and put it in our refrigerator. It stayed there until I came home from the hospital and started the encapsulation process. Technically, you should begin this process as soon as possible after birth, within a day or two, but I delivered on a Tuesday, came home from the hospital on a Friday. I started the process that Friday, and finished on Sunday. In hindsight, I wish I had worked a little harder to get it done faster.
- Clean the placenta. This was the part I was most nervous for. The placenta has two sides: the fetal side (smooth, and where the amnion (bag of waters) is attached), and the maternal side (rough, lumpy, and kind of looks like a dark red cauliflower). The key to this step is to remove as much excess blood and blood clots that you can.I scrubbed my stainless steel kitchen sink with vinegar and baking soda first, then pulled out the placenta. I wore medical-grade latex-free gloves, mostly because I was too squeamish to touch it with my bare hands. I used the bamboo skewers to pierce the veins I could see (above, you can see these as the black “tree branches”), and push the blood through the little pierced holes I had made. This process took about an hour, because I wanted to be super thorough. I trimmed the amnion (bag of waters) off and disposed of it, and cut the umbilical cord off and set that aside.This YouTube video shows some of the cleaning process. She doesn’t use the skewers or try to push excess blood out, which is the primary difference.
- Steam the placenta. I used my biggest stainless steel pot, and a stainless steel steamer at the bottom of the pot. I filled it with water so that it was almost touching the bottom of the steamer, then put the placenta on top. I layered it with 1 sliced jalapeno pepper, two sliced lemons, and one fresh sliced ginger root. Bring the water up to boiling, then lower, and steam for 15-25 minutes, depending on size.https://www.instagram.com/p/BLSd9sIAqX6/?taken-by=cookiesforbfast
- Slice the placenta. Once the steaming is complete (placenta will kind of look like a boiled steak), slice it into super thin pieces. The thinner the piece, the faster it will dehydrate.
- Dehydrate the placenta. Fire up your dehydrator and line the trays with parchment paper. Run for 6-8 hours, or until the pieces are completely dry.
- Grind into a powder. Use a Magic Bullet or some other type of food processor to grind the dried pieces into a fine powder.
- Package into capsules. I used The Capsule Machine noted above, and this was probably the most annoying part of the process. I completely expected the cleaning to be gross and the worst part, but it was oddly fun. Getting the powder into the capsules – well – what a pain. The machine makes it a lot easier, but it’s still very tedious, and I think it took me a few hours before I was finished. (important to note that I apparently have exceptionally large placentas, as noted by the doula who did my first encapsulation, and by my doctor who delivered my third baby – so I end up with many more capsules than the average person)
And that’s it!
Dosing is very independent, and based on the unique individual. I took two capsules, three times a day, for a few days. Then, I moved to two capsules, two times a day, and continued to taper off until they were gone. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer until they’re gone. Some women use them (if frozen) later on to help with PMS, and even through menopause.
I believe there were many external contributing factors to my postpartum depression this time around (I shudder to think at how bad it would have been without the capsules), but when I was consistently taking my capsules, it was the first postpartum period where I wasn’t completely paralyzed with an intense, real fear of death. In the past, I have been absolutely convinced that my baby would die, or I would die, or my family would die, in the immediate weeks following birth. That didn’t happen this time around, and I credit the capsules.