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Is Placenta Encapsulation Dangerous?

Updated: Jul 8

deciding whether or not to encapsulate your placenta can be tricky because there is a lot of information on the internet that cautions against taking your placenta as a supplement

I've had three families cancel placenta encapsulation this month. It's totally up to you if you want to have placenta pills and I don't pressure clients, but it seemed like a pattern more than a coincidence. Finally, one person sent me the screenshots that they took when they started to do their own searching. Aha! The new AI search function had my answers.


The internet is already a wild place with lots of opinion instead of fact, a lot of misinformation, and it seems that AI is here to make it just a little bit worse. Please be careful when reading AI search results. Even Google is posting that this function is experimental and not meant to give accurate information. Just like any other AI, you might get "hallucinations" or "context handling errors." I mean, look what you get if you search "smoking in pregnancy:"


a google search showing an ai hallucination with the text "doctors recommend smoking 2-3 cigarettes per day during pregnancy"
To be very clear: any amount of smoking during pregnancy is harmful

When you search for placenta encapsulation, you can fall down all sorts of rabbit holes. In my experience, a pregnant person will want to consume their placenta, but then their partner or sister or mom searches the practice and gets really scared. I feel sad that some people who want to have pills on hand in case of low milk supply or postpartum depression get talked out of it, especially when most people's concerns are related to internet searches that don't give the whole picture.


According to Google AI, Placenta encapsulation is dangerous and should be avoided, but the American Pregnancy Association says something very different:

There are a number of proposed benefits to the custom, and limited risks if the placenta is stored properly and only ingested by the gestational parent.

Consuming placenta is essentially like consuming a meat product, so all of the storage and preparation safety concerns are addressed in the same way that you would treat meat: by keeping the placenta properly stored at food safe temperatures until it is prepared and then by properly heating the placenta all the way through above 140F. Read more about this process.


People are often grossed out by the thought of placenta consumption, even though many mammals do it. Robin Lim, author of Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra, notes that in her practice the people most repulsed by placentophagy are the ones who have never given birth. Placenta is a high quality meat, packed with protein, minerals, and hormones. It makes sense to me that animals who have to hunt and gather their own food wouldn't waste such a high quality meal. Plus, the benefits include increased milk supply and improved mood.


According to Cornelia Enning, a German midwife who has studied the sociology and anthropology of birth and placentas, ingesting the placenta for medicinal purposes postpartum has been practiced for generations all over the world.(1) What are the risks of placenta encapsulation? How do you navigate a practice that is seen as trendy, but has been around a long time. Placentophagy is an old practice in both Chinese and Vietnamese culture. Let's look at some of the biggest concerns:

FDA doesn't regulate placenta encapsulation

It's true, the FDA does not regulate placenta encapsulation. When you are choosing someone to encapsulate your placenta, you want to ensure that they have taken courses in blood born pathogens, food safety, and actual placenta encapsulation. Most placenta encapsulators aren't big companies processing hundreds and thousands of placentas, which is what the FDA specializes in regulating. The FDA is doing things like making sure that there are no radioactive components in your food. Note that the FDA does not regulate any vitamins, minerals, herbs, or dietary supplements.

the fda does not regulate placenta encapsulation but they also do not regulate any vitamins, herbs, or dietary supplements

Placenta encapsulation includes storing and processing the organ at food safe temperatures to eliminate any bacteria, virus, or infection. Placenta encapsulation is different than consuming your placenta raw.

The CDC has issued a warning against taking placenta pills

There's no research to indicate that eating your placenta is beneficial

My doctor does not recommend encapsulating my placenta

Does the placenta contain toxins?

What are the known side effects?

I understand that when you look up placenta encapsulation, some of the information can be scary. My advice to you is to talk it through with a trusted support person, like a partner or friend who has done placenta encapsulation. Share this article with them. Be careful not to ask leading questions when you are searching for more information. Try general searches like "placenta encapsulation" rather than "benefits of placenta encapsulation" or "side effects of placenta encapsulation." You'll be more likely to get a balanced opinion.


Consider your own history with mental health and whether or not your are high risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Consult your medical provider. And talk to some placenta encapsulators to gain more knowledge before you make a final decision.


Resources:

Placenta: The Gift of Life by Cornelia Enning

Placenta: The Forgotton Chakra by Robin Lim

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