I recently graduated from UVU. As my senior research project I investigated placenta encapsulation. I hope you enjoy reading my discovery.

Placentophagia for Research

Stacey Davis 

Placenta Encapsulation Specialist

Yourbirthtime@gmail.com

Introduction

Placentophagia

There is a growing trend within the birth community involving the placenta. There are many individuals who wildly advocate for this practice. Celebrities and civilians alike are making claims that the consumption of their placenta after birth has helped them in a number of ways. Those who consume their placenta claim that it has helped to: regulate their milk supply, combat postpartum blues, increase energy levels, reduce hemorrhage and other postpartum bleeding as well as aid in the hormonal shift women experience after giving birth.

The placenta is the only organ that our bodies can make and then as a natural process release from the body when it seems its job is done. With all of the healing properties that are in the placenta perhaps its job is not complete when the baby is born. Animals have an innate desire to consume their own placentas. Humans seem to be one of the only mammals that do not routinely consume their placenta. (Kristal, Mark B.)

The Problem

The benefits of the placenta for human consumption are not well known. There is some evidence to suggest that its usage can assist a mom postpartum. Some studies have indicated that placenta can benefit mom in several areas postpartum. It is said that the placenta can help mom regulate her milk supply, regenerate iron back into her body to help combat fatigue and hemorrhage. Fatigue is one of the leading causes of postpartum blues and postpartum depression.

If mom is able to have access to a super pill created by her own body. A super pill that can aid her in increasing her milk supply, increasing her iron levels and decreasing her chance of postpartum hemorrhage and bleeding would this not be an amazing way to start motherhood. This could plant a seed in every mother that her body is strong and capable of producing what her child needs, that she is enough for her child. This would give each child a mom that is confident in her abilities to mother them. With this strong mother and child bond would this not create a more peaceful and loving environment for each child to grow up in.

Of the women who give birth more then eighty percent will experience some degree of postpartum depression. Three out of four moms start out breastfeeding their newborns. Of the moms who breastfeed only 43% of moms are still breastfeeding when baby is six months old. Another four percent of moms will experience postpartum hemorrhage. If we can cut these numbers down would it not be worth it.

Literature Review

Historically

The practice known in the placenta world as Traditional Chinese Medicine, commonly referred to as TCM, has been used in China for centuries. Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to using herbs, and other holistic approaches to treating various ailments. The first known usage of the placenta in medicine was in the 1500’s when Li Shizhen wrote about it in his medical manifesto “Materio Medica”. Historically Li Shizhen was one of China’s greatest doctors. In TCM, the placenta is not used solely for postpartum medicinal purposes. In fact it has a wide range of beneficial implications dependent on how it is prepared. (Lo, Vivienne)

There are two main ways in which the placenta can be prepared for encapsulation. These two ways are commonly referred to as “The Raw Method” and “TCM Method”. The raw method the placenta is simply dehydrated for 8-10 hours and then it is ground down to be placed in capsules. The TCM method before the placenta is placed in the dehydrator it is steamed for 20-30 minutes. The steaming process cooks it enabling any bacteria to be cooked away. Often times the placenta is steamed with ginger or myrrh to help preserve it as well as add healing properties to the placenta.

Placenta and Breast milk Production

There are several hormones in the placenta. Some of these hormones are lactogen, estrogen and progesterone. There are also several minerals in the placenta iron is one of the main minerals. These hormones can assist mom immediately after birth. Immediately postpartum some moms are actually given a man made dose of these hormones to assist them with recovery or to help produce breast milk. The placenta is a natural product that already contains these hormones naturally. Such as lactogen which can help produce milk.

In 1954 a study was conducted on new moms who were having breastfeeding issues. These moms were given either human-freeze-dried placenta or beef that was treated similar to the human placenta. Of the new moms who participated, 86% of the moms who received the human placenta showed an improvement in their milk supply. The moms who were given the beef an improvement in milk supply was seen in only 33% of the new moms. This is a statistically significant difference. (Soykova-Pachnerova, Eva).

This study does show that protein is not a factor when consuming placenta for milk production purposes. If protein was a factor the moms who received the dehydrated beef would have received better results. There must be something else within the placenta that creates an ability to produce milk. Hormones may be the special power that placenta holds to help postpartum woman with milk supply. Hormones hold an incredible power that allows the human body to maintain balance and function daily. It would not be surprising if hormones within the placenta can help with milk production.

Postpartum Blues and Depression

When examining a woman’s potential for postpartum depression it is vital to look at the experience that her body is undergoing during labor, birth and immediately postpartum. A woman’s body undergoes extreme stress and physiological changes in a short amount of time. What she experiences and the degree to which she experiences this has a direct link to postpartum blues and depression. Two triggers for postpartum depression during this time frame are iron loss and fatigue.

Women loose a lot of blood in a short amount of time when they gives birth. The amount of blood that is lost during birth can create a temporary anemia. This anemia can even be relevant in a woman who does not normally have issues with low iron. Fatigue is a main symptom in low iron levels. This fatigue and loss of energy contributes to postpartum blues. The postpartum blues can lead to postpartum depression.

Low iron levels lead to fatigue as seen in one study conducted on women of childbearing age who were neither pregnant nor suffered with chronic anemia. These women did suffer with fatigue symptoms. Many women do not associate their fatigue with a possible low iron levels. Instead their fatigue is associated with emotional stress they may be experiencing.

In this study the women were given either a placebo or an iron pill. There was a significant difference in the women’s fatigue levels after taking the iron pills for an extended period of time. This study shows the significance in iron levels and fatigue. Once these women had iron introduced into their bodies their energy levels increased. (Verdon, F).

For a woman who have just given birth it is understandable that her body is fatigued. Her body has just undergone a stressful situation as well as loss of blood. However, just because she is fatigued does not automatically point to her being depressed. This fatigue may just put her at a higher risk of being depressed or experiencing postpartum depression. (Bozoky, Ingrid)

Another study that examined women’s degree of fatigue immediately postpartum and her fatigue a month later showed a direct link to her experiencing postpartum depression. The women were given self measurements in regards to how much fatigue they felt immediately postpartum, a week later, a couple weeks later and a month later. Those women who reported a higher degree of fatigue immediately postpartum also reported a higher degree of fatigue a month later. The women who reported the higher degrees of fatigue also self reported postpartum depression. (Beard, John L).

Abstract

When a woman goes through pregnancy and then the proceeding labor and birth of her baby her body is experiencing high amounts of stress. Her body is being depleted of vital elements that maintain a normal balance. Many times it is hard for a woman to recover from the experience of childbirth and pregnancy. It is beneficial to study the placenta to see if it can aid women during this transition.

It is hard to supplement the loss of the vital elements that pregnancy and childbirth deplete a woman’s body of. This depletion can eventually lead to fatigue and high levels of stress. This depletion leaves a woman’s body out of balance. Fatigue, stress and being off balance all contribute to postpartum depression, whether it is immediately postpartum or six months postpartum.

Method

Quantitative Study

This study will use samples from two populations. The first population will be women who are of childbearing age who have participated in the practice of placentophagia. The second population will be women of childbearing age who have not consumed their placenta. This will be the only difference between group A and group B.

Both populations will have had at least one child. The women will not be immediately postpartum. For means of the study the immediate postpartum period will be defined as the time from giving birth and up to three months after the birth. It is preferable that the women have had their experience compared in this study no more then three years prior.

The targeted number of women from each population is fifty women. It is preferable to have an equal number of women from each population. Having an equal number would be ideal for a comparative study. The women will voluntarily participate and share their experience.

Midwifes and other birth professionals will have access to the questionnaire to pass along to their clients who will participate. The questionnaire will be on Quartics and will consist of twenty questions for the women who have consumed their placenta. It will consist of thirteen questions for women who have not consumed their placenta. It will take approximately ten minutes for either study.

The survey will be on Quartics. This enables the women to participate in their homes or where ever they have internet access. It is preferable they participate in the privacy of their home. This keeps in private. There is no need to gather personal information such as their name, age or contact information. This allows the women to remain anonymous. The study will be open for the month of June and will close July 1. The experience of both populations will be compared for similarities and differences in their postpartum period. A correlation of the time period of placentophagia and the women’s experience will be looked at specifically to see if there is any skewness.

Qualitative Study

For this study the same population rules apply. Interviews are conducted with two women from each population. The interviews will take approximately one hour to complete. The women will share their postpartum experience. For this study the interviews will be primarily participant led. The specific items the interviews will be looking for are; the participants overall experience, the participants concerns during their postpartum period, what the participants think they could have done to have a better postpartum period.

Placebo Study

For this study there will be a sample size of one hundred women. These women will voluntarily participate in a blind study. Fifty women will receive their placenta. Their placenta will be steamed for twenty minutes. It will then be dehydrated on a low setting for six hours. Then it will be put it capsules. Fifty women will receive capsules that contain red-raspberry leaf herbs. Neither group will know if they are consuming placenta or herbs.

The women will take a questionnaire consisting of ten questions pertaining to how they are feeling postpartum. This study will be given twenty-four hours postpartum. After answering the questions the women will begin their capsule regimen. At Twenty-four hours postpartum each women will take three capsules. For the first week the women will take three capsules by mouth every eight hours. After seven days following this regimen the women will then begin taking two capsules every eight hours. They will take two capsules every eight hours for another seven days this will be the second week regimen. The third week the women will take one capsule every eight hours for seven days. At the end of the third week the women will take the questionnaire again.

The results from the first questionnaire and the second questionnaire will be gathered and compared. The results will be compared overall as well as one group compared to the second group. The results will pay special attention to milk supply, fatigue levels, as well as emotional well being. Things to take special note of is any increase or decrease in any three of these items. Comparing these increases or decreases to capsules used.

Discussion Section

Results

The results captured in this study were what was expected. The women reported a significant change in their emotional stability. However, the change showed that the placenta consumption was positive. The women reported that they were less emotional after consuming their placenta. The women also reported that they had more energy after consuming their placenta then before consuming their placenta.

Implications

The study consisted of four questions. It consisted of a survey were woman evaluated themselves on a likert scale there overall emotional well being. The likert scale was set at 1)never 2) sometimes and 3) always. The mean score for how woman rated their loss of energy during their postpartum period was 2.36 with a standard deviation of 0.77 and a population standard deviation of 0.74. The kurtosis or skewness is 2.32 After consuming their placenta the mean score for how they rated their loss of energy was 1.73; standard deviation was 0.65 with a population standard deviation of 0.62. The kurtosis for this question was 1.97

The women were then asked how they rated their highs and lows during their postpartum period using the same likert scale. The mean scores for how they rated their highs and lows was 2.27. The standard deviation was 0.79 with a population standard deviation of 0.75. The kurtosis was 1.92. When rating their highs and lows after consuming their placenta their mean score was 2.09. The standard deviation was 0.70 with a population standard deviation of 0.67. With a kurtosis of 2.23

Limitations

This was a very limited study conducted on ten individuals who have participated in the practice of consuming their placenta. The study was conducted in a single location with a single population. The other limitation to this study was time. It was conducted in a short amount of time with very limited participants. This shorted the randomization of this study as well as did not allow for a control group versus an experimental group. When studying where a drug is causing a placebo affect it is very important to have the control group to compare. The survey the women took was very short consisting of only four questions. It may be imperative to elaborate on this survey.

Suggestions For Future Research.

It is important for this study to do more research to gather more results. It will be helpful to broaden the participants in this study. It is also important to have a larger number of participants. Gathering this type of data it is vital to have more participants in order to determine more affectivly if placenta is helpful or taking the placenta simply produces a placebo effect.

References:

Barrett, P., & Lo, V. Cooking up Fine Remedies: On the Culinary Aesthetic in a Sixteenth-Century Chinese

Materia Medica. Medical History, 395-422.

Beard, J., Hendricks, M. K., Perez, E. M., Murray-Kolb, L. E., Berg, A., Vernon-Feagans, L., et al. Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition. The Journal of Nutrition0022-3166, 267-272.

Bozoky, I., & Corwin, E. J. Fatigue As A Predictor Of Postpartum Depression. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic31, 436-443.

Kristal, Mark B. Placentophagia: a biobehavioral enigam. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews4, 141-150.

Soykova-Pachnerova, E., Brutar, V., Golova, B., & Zvolska, E. Placenta as a Lactagogen. The First Obstetrics Clinic, Charles University, Prague.

Verdon, F., & Burnand, B. Iron supplementation for unexplained fatigue in non-anemic women: double blind randomized placebo controlled trial. BMJ, 1124.

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