What Are the Risks of Placenta Encapsulation?

placenta encapsulation

You may have read or heard about the benefits of placenta encapsulation- they’ve been documented here, as one example. More and more women are choosing this option to help them feel better faster after birth.

Naturally, your next question may be, “What are the risks of placenta encapsulation?”

Unfortunately, placentophagy (the scientific word for eating your placenta) is a research black hole – there is very little scientific research showing benefits OR risks.

From the American Pregnancy Association, “The few scientific studies conducted on placental encapsulation have not conclusively supported the effects of this practice, nor have they completely dispelled the possibility of benefits from ingesting the placenta. However, it should be noted by expectant mothers that the majority of the information we have regarding placental encapsulation comes almost entirely from anecdotes of women who have tried it.”

As professional postpartum placenta specialists, however, we can use our experience, study and logic to deduce possible risks into several categories.

Risk of Contamination

Placenta encapsulation is essentially eating a meat product. That means that identical meat safety guidelines that apply to transporting, handling and preparing meat must apply. Your placenta should be stored at a temperature below the “Danger Zone” (source: FoodSafety.gov) of 40 deg Fahrenheit. Next, it should be cooked and dehydrated above the “Danger Zone” of 140 deg Fahrenheit. These temperatures ensure that bacteria doesn’t grow and is killed.

The other risk is cross-contamination with blood-borne pathogens. Your placenta should never be exposed to other people’s blood. Any supplies used in preparation, cleaning, etc., should be one-time use, in original packaging, or disinfected according to the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for blood-borne pathogens.

Disposable protective equipment should be worn to protect the professional and to prevent additional transfer of possible viruses/bacteria.

Risk of Side Effects

While many women report feeling better while consuming their placenta, some women report feeling worse. Commonly reported side effects are headaches, nausea, dizziness, jitteriness and stomach distress.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control issued a reportof one case of a newborn contracting late onset group B streptococcus infection that appears to be related to the mother taking placenta capsules. The placenta tested positive for an identical strain of GBS. It is not known how the transfer of the bacteria occurred. GBS infection is a serious illness in newborns. It appears that the placenta was prepared at temperatures in the Danger Zone.

Unknown Risks

It is possible that there may be unknown risks of placenta consumption. It’s also possible that you might have your placenta encapsulated and see no results whatsoever.

Again from the American Pregnancy Association, “Placental encapsulation appears to carry no inherent risk if ingested solely by the mother.”

At Buddha Belly, we believe our strict guidelines on transport, location of encapsulation and safety standards are the best available. We encourage our clients and potential clients to research this option and discuss with their healthcare provider.

Your placenta never leaves your own possession, leaving no doubt as to whose it is. We provide your own personal transportation kit – and instructions – on how to store and transport your placenta until encapsulation can begin.

We will only encapsulate in your home, where yours will be the only placenta there! We do all the clean up – before and after – to make it a safe workspace.
Our postpartum placenta specialists are professionally trained and certified preventing the transmission of bloodborne pathogens and other common infections while providing placenta encapsulation services.

Our equipment and supplies – wherever possible – are one-time use only and properly discarded immediately. The minimal amount of equipment that must be reused is thoroughly sanitized, using CDC standards, between clients.

Once more from the American Pregnancy Association, “If you are considering placental encapsulation, it is important to research the techniques used by your chosen facility to ensure the placenta is being handled safely.”

About Amy Lewis

Amy is the co-owner of Buddha Belly. She is passionate about assisting women through life's most challenging transitions and nurtures a lifelong commitment to women in serving mothers as a doula. She is certified by ProDoula as a labor doula, postpartum and infant care doula and postpartum specialist. She was certified by the Healthy Children Project and the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice as a lactation counselor and is a birth, newborn and breastfeeding educator. > keep reading

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