Placenta pills the latest trend on Northern Rivers
THIS MONTH Lismore childbirth educator Kirrah Holborn is on call to pick up seven women’s placentas.
Midwives at Lismore Base Hospital are familiar with the increasingly common request by mothers to store their placentas on ice after birth for the purpose of “placenta encapsulation” – the process in which a placenta is steamed, dehydrated, ground to powder and poured into capsules.
The practice of eating one’s own placenta dates back thousands of years but has experienced a resurgence thanks to celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, who swear by the little purple pills for post-partum hormone balance and increased milk supply.
Ms Holborn’s business, Placenta Wisdom, was the first of its kind on the North Coast when she started three years ago. Now, there are three other placenta encapsulation experts in the region.
“If the women don’t want to see their placenta they don’t have to. They can be as removed from the process as they want to be,” she said.
“I always take photos of the placenta in case the mother wants to see what it looks like. They can be really beautiful and are a fascinating organ.
“Every one is so different. I have an Instagram account full of them. Every one has its own little, unique tree.”
The process explained
“The process is pretty straight-forward,” Ms Holborn said.
“They ring me up or book online. Women let their midwife know they are having their placenta encapsulated. Then at birth, the placenta goes into a bag within an hour of birth to keep it safe for food safety regulations.
“Once I pick up the placenta, I transport it in a fridge and take it to my accredited workspace.”
There are two ways to ways to process a placenta.
Some want to leave it as is, which is called “raw start”,where it is sliced and dehydrated sand ground.
Others is based on a traditional Chinese method, where the placenta is steamed with lemon, ginger, chilli or other warming herbs.
Once it is taken out of the steamer it look very different – brown and curled up – more like what cooked meat looks like. Then it is sliced into thin strips and laid on a dehydration tray at a 63 degree temperature to ensure any bacteria has been killed.
That takes ten hours but the “raw start” method can take up to 24 hours.
After it is dried it is put into a grinder and turned into a powder, then capsulated by a capsule machine.
An average placenta makes about 140 capsules.
The whole process costs about $260.
“Placenta has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many fertility or hormonal issues,” Ms Holborn said.
“The main benefits for consuming the placenta, is overwhelmingly anecdotal evidence.
“There are scientific studies done as well that link placenta encapsulation with improved breast milk supply.
“We are seeing women having easy milk supply. Even women that have struggled in the past.
“Obviously it is full of iron and that is great for improving energy levels. After the blood loss from birth, it helps to replenish minerals after.
“It also helps with hormonal balance. The ‘baby blues’ is a common experience. Up to 80 per cent of women experience it.
“The placenta is an endocrine organ which releases those hormones in pregnancy so women who consume their placenta within 24 to 48 hours after birth aren’t getting a significant drop. They are not getting that level of baby blues.
“Some women still do, but that rate is significantly reduced. It makes for a much smoother hormonal decent after the euphoria of birth. It’s good for those first few weeks to keep the dose high.”