Monday, October 25, 2010

My first encapsulation, with bonus Buffy reference. GRAPHIC!

(Note to self, make sure I don't accidentally post this on my food blog . . . )

SECOND WARNING: This is going to be graphic.

I've been touting the potential benefits of placenta consumption, specifically in the form of encapsulation, which is by far the most palatable means of so doing for most, myself included. Check out the site Placenta Benefits for tons of information, including articles on its benefits (such as reducing bleeding and lochia, helping to prevent postpartum depression, and aiding abundant lactation), how to get one's placenta released from the hospital if you birthed there, collected scientific research and so on. I missed out on the chance to do this with my own placenta, sadly, but I'm currently working with a postpartum client who was not only game to give this a try, but also gave me permission to both write about and share photographs of the whole process. DID I MENTION THIS WAS GOING TO BE GRAPHIC?

P.S. This is going to be graphic!

Ready?

I was alerted to the happy birth of her second daughter within hours of the happy event, I hightailed it over to her house to pick up the goods as soon as possible, and set to work.

And here's the healthy specimen. I like my Culinary Institute of America logo on the cutting sheet there, don't you? Anyway, her midwives had already removed the umbilical cord and wrapped it up neatly, storing it in the refrigerator until I could get there to pick it up. (This was a home birth, so we didn't have to worry about obtaining it from the hospital.)

I donned gloves and got down to business. The process involves three major steps: steaming the placenta, then drying it either in a dehydrator or an oven on a very low setting, and then grinding it into a powder. First it was thoroughly rinsed, then cut into several pieces in order to fit manageably into the steamer.



I then steamed it with a sliced lemon and a few chunks of ginger, for both preservation and odor. The scent of this has been remarked upon; it's not unpleasant. One friend of mine found the scent disturbing specifically because she thought it actually smelled quite tasty; like, she kept thinking "Mmm, pot roast," and then remembering immediately what it actually was. Others have described it as rather gamey, like cooking elk or deer, if you have experience of that. I wonder if it might not be best described as the scent of offal cooking. Big game offal. With Asian flavor profiles, due to the citrus and ginger.

OKAY, if you're still with me, after steaming the placenta for 15 minutes on each side, I sliced it into smaller strips and placed it into my preheated low oven. There it remained overnight, and because it wasn't quite done yet in the morning and I had to depart for work, on the advice of my friend Justine (who you might remember from our placenta playdate), I cranked the oven up for just a few minutes and then turned it off altogether. Perfect.


And there it is! All that was left to do was grind it up. Lucky for me, I have a Vita-Mix blender, the Cadillac of blenders, but a good food processor would do the trick just fine. It pulverized it in about 10 seconds.



I then made the mistake of not letting the dust settle before opening. Clouds of placenta dust poofed out the top, and I couldn't help inhaling quite a bit, then having a huge coughing fit. Suddenly I knew exactly how Buffy feels when she dusts a vamp and accidentally gets a lungful.

That's all there is to it! I filled a few capsules just to get her started, but there's no need to do all of them at once, and I'm told they can actually get sticky if left too long. The rest went into a ziploc baggie along with some fenugreek and blessed thistle (not a huge amount of either), and I brought it right over to mama, who has been taking them regularly ever since!

I'm so grateful to her for allowing me to have this experience, as it's definitely something I want to be able to offer to all my clients in the future, and I'm also glad to have been able to share it with you! (If you made it to the end of this, you're officially a member of the birthgeek club. Check your inbox for the secret handshake and exclusive decoder ring.)

22 comments:

  1. So super cool. One of my BB partners is a PES and I'm TOTALLY having her do my placenta for this birth. My midwife suggested it on the first visit and I was like "I'm already on it!"

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  2. Thanks for sharing, especially with the pictures! I love the idea of encapsulation and will do it if I ever have another baby. Well, I will hire someone to do it for me. So I can sit and enjoy my baby while someone else is doing all the cool things you did.

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  3. I get the health benefits, and I get that many cultured have eaten the placenta for post partum health, but, for those of you who advocate and/or believe in this whole heartedly, how do you get around the point that this is in fact canibalistic in nature? This has always been my hold up. Unless I was in a true starvation situation I wouldn't eat human flesh, so how do I justify eating a human organ? An organ, in fact, that came from my baby? I promise this is not a snark but a meaningful question. How do you deal with the canibalistic nature of this?

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  4. This is really interesting and I liked seeing the process! I loved my hospital birth but receiving pampering, tinctures and herbs from a doula sounds wonderful!

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  5. I did mine- it was awesome. After 5 other babies and 5 cases of PPD (which were progressively worse) my last babymoon was HEAVEN. I wish I was smart enough to have thought to combine it with fenugreek, great idea.

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  6. jespren, I honestly just hadn't thought of it that way. I suppose it might get an exemption because it's technically auto-cannibalism? Which reminds me of that Stephen King short story, I think it was called "Survivor Type", where a doctor stranded on a desert island . . . well, you get the idea. "Castaway" starring Tom Hanks it was not. (Wow, the conversational places this blog leads sometimes.)

    I think it's the fact that no suffering is involved whatsoever, and it comes from ourselves, and would otherwise be discarded, plus many mammals do this in nature, instinctively, whether they're normally carnivorous or not. I've actually heard this referred to as 'vegan meat', which is simultaneously hilarious, totally gross, and rather apt.

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  7. This was really interesting! Thanks for writing about it. I've really been enjoying your blog. I'm a doula-in-training and haven't been able to get enough of reading everything I can get my hands on about birth. I've only recently run across the idea of placenta consumption in the past couple of months, and I've found the idea intriguing, although a little shocking to my preconceptions about what "should" be done with a placenta. I would love to read some studies about the benefits - do you know of any good ones?

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  8. Who knew a placenta would inspire me to finally read your AWESOME blog?
    There is so much Anne-fabulous reading material to get through. Thanks for your inspirational thoughts.

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  9. What setting did you leave your oven on overnight? I dried one out at 250 degrees (F) once and had I not checked on it early out of anticipation it would have gotten too crispy!

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  10. Erin, a long-overdue welcome!

    Shary, it was somewhere between 150 and 200, as low as it will go. Good thing you checked!!

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  11. NEAT! I've always wanted the birth junkie decoder ring!

    I've been wondering how this was all done... Thanks for sharing it and de-mistifying it all for us :)

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  12. I had mine done, but I birthed in the hospital and the midwife wrapped it all up before I could get a glimpse of it. Somehow all the pictures of placentas I've seen before focus on the tree, etc...I never realized just how meaty they are! Taking it was a life-saver! I struggle with depression in regular life, and in that first week post partum I felt myself on a bad spiraling path...then I started taking my pills, and it all turned right around! Thanks for posting!

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  13. That placenta looks hurt the way it's been chopped up while raw. I've never ever heard of cutting it up like that to "fit into the steamer". I've been doing encapsulation myself for quite sometime too.

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  14. Thanks for sharing those pictures, and describing the whole process. I have always wondered whether encapsulating a placenta would cause some of the "goodness" to be lost? For that reason, I cut mine of into chunks, and just swallowed them. I don't consider myself to be a cannibal at all :). Like you say, Anne, the placenta would be discarded if I did not consume it, and nobody died of suffered in the process. Actually, just chucking it out (as my midwife did after my first birth) seems a bit disrespectful, somehow.

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  15. I read the whole thing, while eating dinner. AND I'm not (yet) a mother.

    Does that get me access to the inner circle of the Birthgeek club? Or excluded? :-P

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  16. You definitely get extra credit for that!

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  17. Wow, I would LOVE to have my placenta encapsulated but I don't think I'd be able to stomach doing it myself! I have a hospital birth planned, baby boy is due Jan 18th 2011, so if there's any info you can give me on how to get the placenta released or finding someone to do the encapsulation (seriously, wouldn't be able to handle it myself lol), please email!

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  18. i guess i'm a birthgeek! that was really interesting.... thank you.

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  19. I did an encapsulation recently for a client of mine (my first try) and it turned out quite well. I'm wondering whether there are differences between drying it out from raw state as opposed to steaming it first? We chose to leave it raw and then dehydrate, with no added herbs. Do you have any information on benefits/risks of raw versus steaming as well as the addition of herbs?

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  20. My doula is going to encapsulate my placenta this time and I'm really excited about it!

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  21. Anonymous, there's info on how to try to get it released from the hospital on the Placenta Benefits site. Best of luck!

    Talk Birth, I'm stoked for you!

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  22. DoulaSummer,

    The steaming process has to do with killing bacteria. Because it cooks or dehydrates at such a low temperature (whatever equipment you have) over such a long period of time, my understanding is that this low temperature range has the potential for bad bacteria to breed. No herbs are *necessary*, this was for my client's individual needs, as she had issues with supply last time around and was going to be using various galactagogues. Fully optional.

    Oh, and from way upthread, Anonymous, on the cutting of the placenta, there was simply no way it would fit into my steamer basket in one piece, as mine has a sort of spike that comes up from the center. I had to fit it into pieces around the center. It was either that or skewer it in the middle like a restaurant order on a spindle. :O)

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