A growing number of women are beginning to see the potential benefits that placentophagy (the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth) has to offer. They are recognizing the effects of replenishing the hungry and tired body after labor with all of the iron, protein, vitamins, and minerals that the placenta is naturally enriched with. There are now links between placenta encapsulation and reduced postpartum depression and "baby blues", as well as an increased potential in positive breastmilk production, both due to the amount of the mother's own hormones found in her placenta.
We lose blood after birth, and continue to lose blood for several more weeks. Some women hemorrhage. Placentas are a blood-filled organ, so encapsulation may help increase blood iron levels
How does placenta encapsulation reduce the risk of postpartum depression? One theory is based on the fact that the mother's hormones, progesterone in particular, plummet after birthing her baby. Placentas are filled with this hormone, and can help replace and re-balance this loss (and all of the other hormones created through pregnancy and labor that are now present in the placenta). The placenta also secretes a significant amount of Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone (CRH), which is a stress reliever, during the third trimester.
Leftover placenta pills can also be frozen for later use in life! Some mothers have reported that the capsules have helped them get through emotional struggles that come into their lives years after having a baby, hormonal ups and downs when they begin to menstruate again,
and even with the hormonal fluctuations of menopause!
Since the placenta still contains opium-like substances from childbirth, it may reduce the level of pain a mother feels postpartum. The amount of blood, vitamins, minerals, and protein in the placenta may be of great benefit to the mother consuming it, as it will give her more energy and replenishment. This can be particularly helpful to vegetarian mothers. Yes, vegetarians consume their placentas too!
Placentas are honored in so many cultures across the world.
Many cultures practice placenta burial as a way of binding the child to their ancestral roots. Other cultures believe that the placenta is energetically the baby's twin. This is interesting considering the placenta contains the child's DNA, stem cells, and has provided all oxygen and nutrients to the baby starting in the 2nd trimester. In Chinese Medicine, the placenta has been highly respected for its medicinal value for a very long time. Yet, in America, the placenta is sadly looked at as something "gross" to be disposed of after birth. There is no second thought about what life forces this organ has provided for your growing baby throughout pregnancy.
Placentas contain prolactin-like hormones at birth, so are thought to be a lactogen. They have small amounts of oxytocin, which not only eases birth stress, but also causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk. In fact, in 1954 researchers conducted a study on 210 women with insufficient milk supply. These women were given dried placenta to consume, and in just a matter of days, 86% of them had a positive increase in milk supply. (Placenta as a Lactagogon; Gynaecologia 138: 617-627, 1954).
High levels of prostaglandins exist in the placenta, which stimulates involution (the shrinking of the uterus to its former size). This may help reduce or stop postpartum bleeding (also reducing anemia), and cleans out the uterus. The oxytocin in the placenta may also be a factor in reducing or stopping bleeding.