I know right off the bat the subject of how to encapsulate your placenta is NOT going to appeal to every reader. It definitely embraces a very natural, hippie way of doing things as a mom. I know that’s not for everyone, and that’s totally ok by me. Read as you will, and take from it whatever you like… but this topic is so close to my heart as a mama and resonates deeply with the simple, intuitive lifestyle I want to share with you on this blog. So, I will share, and share authentically!
**Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. This blog post should not be taken as medical advise. I am simply sharing my own research, experience, and opinions for informational purposes only. Do your own research and make informed decisions that are right for you and your family.
**WARNING** GRAPHIC PHOTOS ARE INCLUDED IN THIS POST. VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK**
Moving right along…
In Spring of 2016, I gave birth to Miss Ember Sol. Throughout her pregnancy, I did everything as naturally as possible. I was so adamant on having a natural home birth, in the water, and envisioned nothing but an intimate, graceful entry into the world for her. It didn’t end up working out as planned, and after 65 difficult hours of active labor, I gave birth to Ember in a hospital.
Following what was (at the time) a devastating first birth experience for me, encapsulating my placenta was something which truly restored my sense of empowerment, womanhood, and control over my own body. It gave me a sense of closure on our birth experience, and I felt soon after that I was in a place where I could move on from that grief and embrace new motherhood with strength and joy. Taking my placenta pills each day did wonders for my body and mind, too. It made me feel put together, rejuvenated, and nourished both physically and emotionally.
The placenta has, rightfully so, been honored around the world for centuries. Many cultures support its spiritual significance and close kinship to the human it nurtures, well into the afterlife. Some folks make food from it, artwork through it, preserve it, bury it, (the list goes on), to benefit from it medicinally or preserve it as something sacred.
Fast forward to today- with the steady rise of natural alternative seekers, consuming the placenta is recognized by many to be physiologically beneficial! While benefits of placenta consumption aren’t limited to mamas alone, it can provide a host of benefits to moms who have just given birth. It helps to regulate hormones (and post-partum mood shifts), reduces risk of post-partum depression, and aids in releasing endorphins while inhibiting stress responses (Frugile Granola).
The abundant placenta is also rich with blood, immune boosting agents, protein, B vitamins, and other elements leftover from its time nourishing the unborn fetus. So it aids in promoting strength and energy, reduces swelling, blood pressure, toxemia, kidney issues, and even colic in the newborn (Frugile Granola). It is also full of hormones Oxycontin (which increases milk production and produces feelings of happiness and contentment) and Prostaglandin (which assists the uterus in contracting and returning to pre-pregnancy size) (Your Hormones)! In a nutshell, its a God send for mamas.
I was, however, originally a little grossed out by the idea of consuming my own placenta. I really liked the idea of burying it in our backyard to honor my body’s way of giving life to our child. But, we were in a rental home and I knew it wasn’t a permanent place to plant a tree and create a memory. Then through pregnancy research, I learned about the incredible benefits I shared above, and really started to consider encapsulation. My sister was the one who really sealed the deal for me though. She wanted to do it for me so badly.
So, when the time came to deliver, I insisted the hospital save my placenta for me to take home later. When I was released, they brought it to me, frozen inside a biohazard bag to take home!
After it thawed, I made some prints of my placenta prior to steaming it. To me, the placenta means life and abundance and resembles a tree to match that feeling! So I positioned my placenta like a tree with its cord as trunk, placed within the word love, the “roots” of motherhood.
We really wanted to make colored placenta artwork with paint, but didn’t want to contaminate something I was going to consume, so we chose to print it naturally with blood instead. Again, not for everyone, but it worked for us.
The little bit to the right of the placenta body is (an attempt at) Ember’s teeny handprint…
Once fully dried, I preserved the print in a tight glass frame, along with Em’s dried umbilical cord. It still hangs in her room today,! She knows exactly what it is and what it represents. (I KNOW hanging a blood print in a nursery is not for everyone, haha. I’ve gotten a lot of weird responses from house guests about it- but it is beautiful to us).
Once we were finished printing, we prepared the placenta for steaming (I have heard of consuming or drying it raw, but prefered to steam it first myself). We rinsed it thoroughly and massaged it for a good few minutes under cool water to remove all excess blood. Once it was clean and light in color, we steamed it in a bath of lemon, red pepper, lavender, and rosemary.
- Lemon- an astringent, helps to shrink and constrict tissue
- Pepper- one of many plants considered to be warming. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the postpartum period is considered to be a very yin or cold time, and the warming properties of hot pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc. help to encourage the idea of warmth (Lavendoula). Acceptance, embrace, and feeling of comfort and nurture.
- Lavender and Rosemary- Not typically seen in Western placental preparation. I added these simply because they calm me. We always have both growing fresh at home, and the aroma of these herbs revitalizes my spirit, reminding me to breathe and rest easy. Add something that you enjoy, as this whole process comes from you, is done by you, and made for you.
Steam until fully cooked, cool, and slice for drying. Lay on a baking sheet, lined, for easy cleanup.
The steaming took no time at all, maybe about 20 minutes. We’re very comfortable cooking at our house, and could tell when it was cooked just by the texture when it was pushed on (to a hamburger patty, just a bit spongier). However, there are tons of resources online if you’re unsure about how long to steam for.
The drying, on the other hand, took some time. I personally didn’t want to place my placenta into our food dehydrator because we use that on the regular for fruits and things, so we dried it in the oven instead. We kept it on the lowest temperature (which I think was around 200 F), and dried for 6-8 hours until it resembled jerky (start in the morning if you plan to spend the day at home, or start drying overnight to remove the next morning).
**Note: you guys, the drying process was not easy for me. As I said before, I was originally a bit grossed out by the idea of consuming my own placenta, so naturally, the smell of it drying in my kitchen for hours on end was really difficult for me to handle. It would have been really difficult for me to do this alone. My amazing sister and amazing husband carried me through this whole process, and totally tolerated my inability to handle much of it. They weren’t bothered by the smell at all, but my postpartum, overly alert nose was. A lot.
My point? Make sure that you have a support system if you’re going to do this yourself and you feel like you need it. It would have been a lot for me to take on alone, feeling emotional, sore, a bit queezy, and with a newborn to care for. That’s the last thing a new mama needs.
After drying and cooling (and my super husband’s eating a piece of it for me to ensure it was safe…), we ground it up into fine powder. I used a coffee grinder for this process, simply because it was the only processor in my house I never use for anything else.
Once ground, my husband and sister went to work encapsulating the powder until it was all neatly packaged into manageable little pills for me to each day. After all was said and done, I had enough pills to take 1 twice a day (morning and night) for 1.5-2 months.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. I stored mine in this clear mason jar, which worked just fine. However, I now know it is ideal to store them in a dark glass container to best preserve freshness, which i’ll be doing for my upcoming birth. After the pills were finished, I gently removed my homemade labels and pressed them in Ember’s baby book for a keepsake!
In all, both the process and the product were just what I needed. It did so much for my spirit, and was a great bonding time for our family. It left me with a couple of really special keepsakes too, which I’ll cherish forever.
Want to learn more about natural motherhood? Check out my list of Natural Baby Remedies!