Are placenta pills a new mum's miracle?
Women around the country are using placenta capsules to boost post-baby health
THERE'S no doubt about it – childbirth is a physically demanding experience and many new mums pop pills of a homeopathic or organic nature in order to boost their flagging systems and help restore natural vitality.
But how many of us would eat our own placenta in order to achieve an injection of mineral-rich nutrients?
Most of us wouldn't even entertain the idea of ingesting a part of our own body, but in the past couple of years a number of Irish women have been trained in the process of turning a placenta into easy-to-swallow capsules, and the idea seems to be catching on.
Lisa Cotter is a placenta encapsulation specialist from Cork. She says consuming the after-birth is completely natural and offers great benefits to new mothers.
"Placenta encapsulation has become a growing trend across the world and has recently been made popular by celebrities such as January Jones and Holly Madison," she says. "It has also become very popular in Ireland with more and more women realising the benefits.
"It has been proven that the symptoms of postpartum depression are linked with the severe lack of essential nutrients post-birth, such as vitamin B6 and CRH; both are of high supply in the placenta so consuming it nourishes the mother of the lost essential nutrients and may entirely prevent the baby blues."
The specialist says there are various ways in which to consume the placenta and all are equally beneficial.
"IPEN placenta specialists like myself are trained to offer both raw dried and TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) placenta capsules," she explains.
The type of method a mother chooses is unique to her own circumstances.
Most women consume their capsules 1-3 times a day during the first 4-6 weeks postpartum, or until their hormones have returned to a state of normality.
You can take 1-2 capsules whenever you need a 'pick-me-up' or to boost your milk supply when breastfeeding.
"It is also possible to get the same nutritional benefits through a placenta smoothie – which contains two 2 euro coin-sized pieces of placenta blended with fresh raspberries, one banana and some spring water," she adds.
Annette Magner is a 37-year-old mother-of-two of Eric (14) and Daniel (eight months). When she was pregnant with her youngest son, she read an article about placenta encapsulation and decided that it could be nutritionally beneficial after the birth of her baby.
"About a year ago, when I was still pregnant with Daniel, my sister, who was pregnant with twins at the time, saw an article about placenta encapsulation and thought I might be interested in it," recalls the Cork woman.
"I thought it sounded promising and did a little more research online about the benefits of consuming the placenta, particularly in relation to increased milk supply.
"Everything I read was positive so I was convinced that it was worth doing.
"I spoke to my husband Michael (who owns a hotel in Glanmire) and he was very supportive of the idea so I looked into it, found someone in my vicinity who was trained to do it – and set the ball rolling from there."
Although the mother-of-two was confident in her decision, she was aware that others were not quite so enthusiastic about the idea.
"At the mere mention of retaining your placenta, most people immediately think of it in its raw form as opposed to in capsules and for many, the thought of ingesting part of your own body is a turn off," she admits.
"But I don't think there is enough public knowledge about encapsulation, which is essentially just popping a pill. If there was a tablet or herbal remedy which would improve milk supply, increase energy levels, rebalance hormones and speed up the healing process after birth – most people would buy it, without a second glance at the ingredients.
"When I went into hospital to have Daniel, we brought with us a cool bag, ice-packs and a large lunch-box to put the placenta into. Then when my baby was born, we phoned the specialist and she came to collect the bag and returned the next day with the pills – which incidentally didn't taste of anything.
"It cost €180 in total and it was definitely worth it, as my milk supply was much better than it was after my previous pregnancy. I also felt more energetic than I expected and I didn't get any of the 'baby blues' that a lot of women get.
"On top of that my hair and nails were in great condition and I do believe that I healed a lot quicker after the birth.
"I got 152 capsules in total and I was reluctant to finish them – so much so that I was very sparing with them towards the end. I would definitely recommend placenta encapsulation to any new mother and would, without a doubt, do it myself again."
Lorraine Duffy from Mayo also used placenta encapsulation when she gave birth to her daughter almost two years ago.
She had problems breastfeeding her first child when he was born 16 years ago, so the second time around she decided to look into ways of enhancing her milk production. One of the options she found was consuming the placenta after delivery.
After convincing her husband (who works as a butcher) of the benefits, she also managed to cajole him into preparing the pills himself.
"I had a lot of problems feeding my son Darragh, so before Ruby was born, I was determined to do what I could to help my milk come in," explains the mother-of-two.
"I read lots of reviews about placenta encapsulation and decided I would like to give it a go. The only problem was that I couldn't do it on my own, as it is a lengthy and delicate process. I would need both the help of my husband, Noel, and the hospital where I was giving birth."
The 37-year-old discussed the idea with her midwife and obstetrician who both agreed to help Noel by keeping the placenta in a sterile container and passing it on to him as soon as possible after delivery.
"Once everyone was in agreement, I purchased a home encapsulation kit from the UK (which cost €120) and Noel figured out how to use it," she recalls.
"After I gave birth to Ruby, the placenta was put in a Tupperware container and my mum brought it home to put in the fridge.
"Then when Noel got back to the house, he got to work with the preparations. He is a butcher so knew he wouldn't be too grossed-out by the preparation, which entails trimming off the excess cord, washing the placenta and squeezing out the blood clots.
"It wasn't a job for the faint-hearted but Noel ignored the fact that it was part of my body and just got on with it. Then once it was ready, he steamed it and put it in the dehydration kit which dries it out completely.
"The next morning it was as dry as a biscuit and after grinding it up into a fine powder, Noel put it all into the little capsules and finally into a jar."
The new mother started taking the capsules at once and was delighted when her milk came in on day two.
She also felt less tired than after her previous delivery and put this down to the nutrients she had ingested from the placenta.
"I started taking the tablets straight away and my milk came in great quantities the next day," says Lorraine.
"I also felt fantastic and didn't have any of the tearfulness usually associated with a new baby.
"And even though I had a C-section, I was in the supermarket with Ruby when she was just six days old.
"Maybe it was a placebo effect, but all I know is that I felt fantastic."
When Lorraine gave birth there were no trained encapsulation specialists in Ireland, so she purchased the kit herself.
She has since trained as a placenta encapsulation specialist and is available to assist women with the process all along the west coast of the country.