Q: Can the placenta help during the postpartum period?
Occasionally, mothers I care for will ask about placenta encapsulation—the process of drying the placenta out, crushing it up, and putting it into capsules so that it can be consumed.
Women are usually interested in this for a few reasons: They believe it will increase their milk supply and energy or help with postpartum anemia. They believe it will ease postpartum depression. Finally, some women believe it will help with menopausal symptoms, so they wish to store it for future use.
Research hasn’t backed up any of these benefits. It doesn’t show that placenta encapsulation helps, though it doesn’t show that it hurts either. It’s a personal choice.
While most moms leave their placenta at the hospital, women are free to take it home with them. Some cultures have beautiful traditions that involve planting the placenta or growing a tree where it is buried. Women who do choose to take their placenta home and encapsulate it should be sure that it is free from infection. If a mom needed antibiotics in labor, encapsulation wouldn’t be considered safe.
I always advise women who are concerned about being as healthy as possible during the postpartum period to talk to their provider about their options. Some of the best ways to optimize health are to:
- Rest as much as possible the first two weeks after delivery
- Continue taking prenatal vitamins
- Try to get as much sleep as possible
- Talk to a provider about iron levels and start iron supplements, if recommended
- Get help from a provider for postpartum depression
Midwives are experts at helping women navigate the postpartum period. We can help women troubleshoot breastfeeding issues, discuss medication options that are breastfeeding friendly, and refer women to counseling and support groups.
If you have questions about staying healthy when you bring your new baby home, be sure to talk to your provider.
—Marley Abrams, CNM
Marley Abrams is a midwife at Vancouver Clinic. She believes that it’s important for patients to feel comfortable and heard during their visits. She strives to empower women so that they can confidently make their own health care choices.