Placenta Encapsulation: A Tutorial

{when a placenta is spread out it resembles a tree, which, like the placenta, also symbolizes life}

:: WARNING :: GRAPHIC PHOTOS INCLUDED IN THIS POST.

I do believe this is the farthest into crazy crunchy hippie territory that I’ve ventured thus far. A couple of years ago when I first heard of people burying their placenta under a tree as a symbol of life I thought that was weird.

Now? I’m nearly forty weeks pregnant with my third child, and planning to encapsulate and consume my own placenta in order to reap the many health and postpartum healing benefits as has been done in traditional cultures for thousands of years.

I wrote an article for Frugal Granola a few months ago on some of the history and benefits of placentophagy (the act of consuming one’s own placenta after birth), and one of the commenters with a placenta encapsulation business in Texas very kindly offered to answer my questions and give advice as I went through the process.

A friend of mine here in Tiny Town just gave birth to a beautiful babe on Wednesday, and knowing that I was planning to encapsulate my own placenta, asked me to do hers as well. I nervously agreed, since I had never done it before. Dana’s instruction and guidance was invaluable to me as I went through this process, and she has given me permission to share it here as well.

The Process

The placenta was dropped off by K’s husband where it was stored in my fridge (it was stored in a hospital-grade bag then double-bagged again, in case you’re wondering). The optimal time to process a placenta is within 3-5 days, and I started on the evening of day 2. It was an overnight process, as it required 12 hours in the dehydrator.

I began with spreading out a garbage bag over my table, and setting out my glass cutting board and knife, along with the steamer pot ready with cut up lemons, a jalapeño pepper, and a hunk of fresh ginger.

(Optional: Lay the placenta out on a canvas to make an artistic print. Check out the photos on Dana’s site to see some examples).

Dana explains the purpose of these in the TCM (Traditional Chinese Method): “The lemons are an astringent, the ginger and pepper are blood warming and help to move things along in the blood stream. Remember that this is following the Traditional Chinese Method. If you don’t use any of them, you are still going to get the benefits of your placenta but these things are definitely helpful.”

Once you’ve unwrapped the placenta and laid it out, cut the cord off. Optionally, you can reserve the cord to shape into a heart and dehydrate as a keepsake (I chose to skip this step, as the cord had already been mostly cut off).

FYI: If it’s your first time handling and seeing a placenta or anything bloody there may be some “ick factor” to deal with. This part was a little crime-scene-esque for me, but nothing I wasn’t able to handle overall. I almost felt like I was in medical school or something.

Then rinse it under running water, gently massaging it for 5-10 minutes to get the blood out. Dana says “getting the blood out is not a necessary step but I do so because it tends to irritate the stomach for some”. The placenta should lighten in colour after this step.

Place it in your steamer basket that is ready with the lemons, pepper, and ginger.

Steam the placenta for 20 minutes. I used a hot plate burner out on my deck in case there was a lingering smell. (I didn’t want to take chances with my sensitive pregnancy nose – as it turned out the smell of the ginger was the grossest thing for me, the placenta didn’t really smell much).

Be careful not to add too much water to your pot like I did – mine kept overflowing all down the sides and into the burner (which was really hard to clean!) and onto the table, which, I’ll be honest, just grossed me out. My Hubby was helping me and he didn’t think it was gross at all, so it’ll really depend on your own “ick factor” level!).

When it is done steaming (and it’s best to err on the side of underdone), cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment paper (for easier clean-up) on your dehydrator tray, and dehydrate at 118 degrees for 12 hours.

This is it after dehydrating. Little pieces of placenta jerky… mmm (yes, I definitely curled up my nose at this thought, too!). Once it’s done dehydrating (I began the process in the evening so that I could dehydrate overnight – I didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to take it out!), then you need to grind it into a fine powder. A food processor, Magic Bullet, or coffee grinder could all work. I used a food processor.

Once it is in powder form, it is time to encapsulate.

Though this was the part that I was afraid would be the most difficult, it was actually quite easy. K had bought empty capsules (size 00) from the health food store here in Tiny Town. I simply opened a capsule, scooped some powder into each end, and put the capsules back together. Easy-peasy. This was the least “icky” part of the whole process for me, though it was a bit time-consuming.

Unfortunately things got crazy in my house with a friend (and her two kids) here to help me cook a bunch of freezer meals for my upcoming postpartum period (which was so amazing!), so I totally forgot to take a photo of the finished product in the cute little jar I found in my cupboard. It was a great sense of accomplishment!

The capsules should be stored in the fridge in a dark glass bottle. If you are interested in dosage information, feel free to email me!

Would you ever consider encapsulating your placenta? Do you have any other questions?

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Comments

  1. JMT says

    With all kindness, and HUGE respect for those who have done this already, this has to be the nastiest thing I have ever heard! LOL! I am a “crunchy” RN, and deal with blood, sputum, fecal matter, pus, urine, blood clots, all sorts of infectious nastiness, and….. you name it, so “ick-factor” is not really an issue,… normally!!! BUT,… to actually, physically Cut. It. Up., process it & eat it, is far too reminiscent of Jeffery Dahmer for me. The mere thought of EATING a placenta, esp. RAW, is making me turn green! Seriously,.. green! So, BIG, MASSIVE “props” to all of you who have successfully done this! I mean, RESPECT Ladies, much, much RESPECT! I think the only way for me would be if it just came back to me delivered as a finished product. Then, I *may* be able to gag one down,… maybe, and of course, no guarantee that it would stay down! Although, having seen the processing pictures now, I don’t think even then. But, baby days are over for us, our youngest just turned 4, so I will gratefully leave this Ultimate Crunchy Adventure to you. I am not even brave enough to eat Sushi, or Liver, or Calamari, or Escargot, or Clams, or even Shrimp, or,… well, you get the drift! LOL! Take care mommies and enjoy your precious little blessings when they arrive,.. oh, and your placenta too! ;-)

  2. says

    My husband encapsulated my placenta after the birth of our 2nd, though we didn’t get it done as soon as we wanted because hubs got the stomach flu the day after baby was born, and then baby ended up in the children’s hospital for fever and dehydration. I think we encapsulated at the 1 week mark… It made such a difference in my pp recovery! I would not want to give birth without consuming my placenta.

  3. Melissa says

    Awesome read very interesting and thought provoking. Wanted to keep mine and plant the tree and knew about the eating part just ended up skipping it thank you for the education!

    • says

      Hi Whitney,

      (Sorry it took me so long to respond!!)

      I would still steam it if you plan to encapsulate it… but some people consume it raw, like in smoothies. You can freeze it raw, I think, and use smaller pieces at a time. You’d have to research that though, as I don’t know for sure. :)

  4. says

    I had my placenta encapsulated after my most recent baby because I’d had such low milk supply issues with my son. It totally helped! In fact I was doing so well with milk production I decided to stop taking the pills. That’s when I found out that without them I had a horrid case of post-partum depression! I am now actually thankful I had milk supply problems with my son because hard as it was we were able to work through it and it gave me the motivation to look into encapsulation with my next baby. Then the problem became the fact that I needed many more pills than I had left in my own supply. My doula told me that buying sheep-s placenta might help, and it has. I ran out of my own pills long ago. My baby is now 9 months old and I am just now beginning to be able to back off of the sheep’s placenta pills. If any one else out there is having a similar experience, or didn’t save their own placenta at all they can be bought on Amazon.com where they are sold for people to use for skin ailments. (I suppose if you knew someone who had sheep and would save placentas for you during lambing season you might be able to follow this tutorial as well.)

  5. Debbie says

    I’m a 58 year old mother of two… I wish I had known about this when I had my kids, oh so long ago… I didn’t find it icky at all, just seemed natural… :)

  6. says

    Lovely write-up! soooo many women need to get over the ick and try this! I am a die hard believer in placenta encapsulation…although it took a bit of convincing and testimonials to get me to convince myself! I hadn’t heard much about my 1st 2 pregnancies and I wish I had!
    My hubs helped me do it for my 3 rd and 4 th babes and we will do it again for certain! It worked wonders for my low milk supply, physical & emotional recovery and is now my magic happy pill. I have some left in the freezer t and the hubs sometimes urges…”do you think you should take one of those pills!?!?” Dang hormones! Anyways, they really do help tremendously! I ma so impressed that you are willing to share even though it is not culturally accepted in general. I need to do the same. Whenever I hear of women with post pardom problems…I just know they could have been avoided by this practice! I will try to stop being so chicken!!!

  7. says

    This is very interesting. I’m still trying to decide what to do with my placenta. We put it in the freezer when baby arrived a couple of days ago. Maybe we’ll encapsulate it.

  8. Peeatwork says

    Oh, so this is where you placenta eaters hang out. Can’t stay, far too horrible for me, but injoy eating your own baby-sacks everybody!

  9. says

    When I first heard of this (from Naomi) I thought it was insane.  But I think I’m coming around.  It’s definitely way over that “crazy crunchy hippy” line…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I guess I have about 25 weeks to decide whether I am crunchy enough for this…lol!

  10. Naomicoker says

    AWESOME! I cannot wait to start doing this. I have a dehydrator on my birthday wish list and I am going to “hire” myself out and do it for a little business. :) I’ve wanted to do it for about 5 months now. SOOOOOOOOOOO regret not doing mine, but I didn’t know about it at the time. We did however, bury our placenta (mine and Ransoms) underneath a lily plant I got for my first mothers day.

    • says

      Luckily for you there will probably be a “next time” in order to do this :) If you get a dehydrator, you’re gonna have to start making yogurt too – it’s such a super health food, and so ridiculously easy!!

  11. Kerry @ Made For Real says

    Okay, so I came over to say I’m gonna make your granola bars recipe and little did I know what I’d get to read about!!! ;)

    Luckily I home-birthed the last three babes so the shock factor of your post wasn’t huge – but still a surprise! Way to be brave.

  12. Sadieanne says

    is it more beneficial to take dehydrated capsules than consuming it raw? It seems like it would be easier and would preserve more of the nutrients to keep it raw, puree and then freeze in small portions and add to smoothies. 

    • Marissa says

      I personally dehydrated because I have a hard time getting down cooked liver and it has that kind of taste. I don’t think it is more beneficial from what I understand. I just didn’t find the ick factor as strong for daily use if dehydrated and in capsules although I could still taste it. I personally didn’t steam it so it was technically still wrong. That was just the route I decided to go though.

      • Sadieanne says

        okay, I’m assuming you mean “raw” not “wrong”. The steaming part is what’s throwing me off, I don’t see the point, if you can keep it raw and still encapsulate. I asked Shawn if I had had this primal urge to just bite a chunk out of the placenta right after birth and did it, what would he think, and he said it probably would have been the last time I saw him :)

        • Marissa says

          Oh Sadie, thanks for the visual and the laugh. We had a good time grossing Mark and Dan out during the preparation of mine and then teasing our friends at christmas about using the same coffee grinder for their coffee (we didn’t as I fully appreciate that it is still a placenta).
          I think the idea with steaming is that it makes it so that you don’t get the same punch in terms of hormones. So raw is seen as giving more of a faster boost, which may or may not be beneficial. Because of my hormonal imbalance, I would actually now probably consider steaming though I would still suggest raw at times.

          • Sadieanne says

            interesting Mis! I’m done with babies and placentas, but you never know when you will need to pass along some of this info!

            • dea says

              You’re sure (done)? ;) 

              reading this thread made me miss you guys so much! 
              The comments were fantastic. Aw :)
              reading this post made me, literally, gag! Good grief! I thought I was beyond that! (I even had that particular placenta in my fridge for an afternoon and was fine till I saw the pics…eeks!!)

        • Lola says

          bahahaha. we used our dehydrator to process placenta and now Mark doesn’t seem overly thrilled about using it to make his own   jerky.  

        • Marissa says

          Well, I didn’t thoroughly clean the outside of each pill so there was still the taste from that and also there was an aftertaste (like with cod liver oil). I have read that this is one reason for steaming because it won’t be as strong and it can also cause upset to the stomach. If you really want details, eventually it also made my milk smell. I will say though that I have sensitive tastebuds and sniffer

    • says

      Yes, raw is the most beneficial (some women will have a smoothie right after birth with a bit of raw placenta in it, then process the rest), but freezing will deplete some of the nutrients as well. I’m not convinced it would be easier, since it is quite difficult to cut up while raw. Cutting it after it was steamed was easy. Also, that’s why it is really important to dehydrate at the correct temp – no higher than 118 – so that the nutrients aren’t all killed off. This is about the same temp as when I make my homemade yogurt (as recommended by GAPS), which seems to make sense.

      • Sadieanne says

        Oh yes, I’ve ruined a batch of yoghurt by adding the culture when the milk was too hot, annoying, and why a dehydrator would be awesome!

        • says

          I LOVE my dehydrator. It’s worth it for the yogurt-making alone! 
          We’ve ruined a batch that same way too though – you have to heat the milk on the stove-top, let it cool to a certain temp, add the starter, then put the jars in the dehydrator to culture. It’s just nice to have it be a consistent temp for 24 hours and not worry about it.

  13. says

    Yup- it would depend how severe the health benefits are…and 100% proven…usually I don’t have to have something 100% proven but in this case…I have a queazy stomach as it is…Ah well I guess I am past this anyway…so I don’t really have to wonder about it but maybe by the time my daughter has babies I will be sold and willing…but blood is a phobia so maybe I will hire you! ha ha. I am amazed I got through this thrilling and exceptionally brave post. Well done. Am I allowed to say a slight ick now? just slight. Still seems within reason. Most of us do worse without any health benefits so i would say that this is def within reason:)

    • says

      Yup, you are definitely allowed to say yuck :) I did. It doesn’t gross me out in theory – it was just a mental thing of breathing and telling myself to chill out as I went, because part of my brain was screaming at me saying that it was SO gross, and the other part was saying oh-my-goodness-relax-it’s-not-a-big-deal!

      I do believe in the health benefits. I’ve read a ton of stories of women experiencing major improvements and benefits, as well as the fact that cultures around the world for thousands of years have been doing it and believe strongly in it (ie. it’s not just a crazy fad). My article at Frugal Granola (linked in the post) explains more.

    • Lola says

      It definitely icked me out a bit and I have a strong stomach.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m not doing mine though.  Maybe I should give it to the chickens :)

  14. Marissa says

    How did your food processor handle it? I didn’t want to risk burning mine out so I used an almost finished coffee grinder which worked well but it wasn’t strong enough to grind some pieces.

    • says

      My food processor was great! And at the risk of really grossing people out, I plan to still use it in the kitchen… though I may clean it with some bleach or something (I NEVER use bleach, but may just make an exception here – I’m undecided)

      • says

         I see no reason to clean it with bleach!  In fact, if I were a guest in your home eating food that had been in that food processor, I’d be more worried about the bleach than the placenta!  lol.  Just rinse it with warm vinegar and then wash as usual…no big deal!  (and this is coming from somebody who’s still a little yucked-out by the whole placenta encapsulation thing!)

        • says

          I love vinegar, and normally I’ll fight to the death to defend the non-need for bleach in household cleaning… but I don’t know that vinegar is as effective at killing pathogens and some of the more stubborn “hospital-grade” bacteria and such. Perhaps hydrogen peroxide could work instead…

          • says

            I once read a study where a hospital cleaned one wing with only vinegar for a week. At the end of the week less pathogens were found on surfaces of that wing than on surfaces elsewhere in the hospital.

  15. Christina Turtle says

    This interests me. Do you take the capsules daily or only when you are sick? It seems like a lot of work and would only consider it if I was really sold on its health benefits. Do you have more info on this?  

    • says

      Hi Christina! You take them several times a day for the first few weeks postpartum, then at various stages in the postpartum first year, as well as any time you feel you need them (for lactation struggles, hormonal/PPD struggles, etc). You can also save them in the back of the freezer for years to come, and they are good to take during menstrual issues and even menopause. 

      Check out my article that I wrote for Frugal Granola (linked in the post above) to read more about the health benefits, and if you still have questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them! :)

  16. says

    This is the craziest, most interesting thing I think I’ve ever read. I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I opened this. I curled up my nose exactly at the moments you wrote … I felt like you were narrating the journey for me in real-time as I read it! Thanks for introducing me to a new and different process.

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