Mothers say placenta consumption beneficial in postpartum recovery

Lilly Mason, owner of Joyful Choice Birth Services, explains the various postpartum remedies she makes from placenta during an interview Friday, April 27, 2012, in her Lawrence home. She processes the placenta and makes a tincture, jar of pills and salve. She also can turn the umbilical cord into a keepsake by forming it into a heart or other shape and drying it.

Lilly Mason, owner of Joyful Choice Birth Services, explains the various postpartum remedies she makes from placenta during an interview Friday, April 27, 2012, in her Lawrence home. She processes the placenta and makes a tincture, jar of pills and salve. She also can turn the umbilical cord into a keepsake by forming it into a heart or other shape and drying it.

When Sarah Curtis became pregnant with her second child, she decided on a natural childbirth and worked with a midwife and two doulas. She hoped the experience would be better than the first.

“Everything was very clinical and we felt very out of control of the situation,” she said of her first pregnancy. Postpartum, she had trouble breast feeding and suffered from what she described as prolonged baby blues.

While doing her research for baby No. 2, the 34-year-old Olathe resident came across the potential benefits of eating placenta after childbirth. The placenta is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow the exchange of nutrition and oxygen.

“First, we were grossed out by the whole thing like, ‘Eeww, you eat your placenta. That’s so disgusting,’” she said. “But, the more we learned about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense.”

While she knew moms who took the placenta home and put it in smoothies, she couldn’t stomach that. She decided to have her placenta encapsulated, and paid Lawrence resident Lilly Mason, of Joyful Choice Birth Services, about $200 to do it for her.

Then, Curtis delivered her second child at Shawnee Mission Medical Center four months ago. Hospital staff put the placenta into a container and her husband took it home in a cooler.

Soon thereafter, Mason arrived at their home with all of the necessary equipment to transform the placenta into pills. The process included rinsing, steaming and dehydrating the placenta. The dehydration occurs overnight, so she went back the next day to grind it and put it into capsules. She then took the jar of about 120 pills to Curtis and gave her guidelines on how many to take and when.

“They were no weirder or funnier than any other capsules,” she said, of the smell and taste.

Curtis believes they were beneficial.

“We had really big supply issues with breast feeding our first child,” she said. “With this child, I am like a dairy cow. There’s an abundance of milk and I really truly believe it’s because I kick-started off the first two or three weeks with the placenta.”

She also felt better.

“There were no baby blues,” Curtis said. “I didn’t experience any sort of postpartum depression in any way and I really attribute it to that.”

•••

Jodi Selander, founder of Las Vegas-based Placenta Benefits, believes that placenta ingestion can help mothers have a better postpartum recovery because it contains protein, vitamins, iron and hormones.

While some mothers eat placenta raw or use small pieces in a tincture, or alcohol extract, Selander promotes consuming it in pill form. The process she uses for encapsulation is similar to traditional Chinese medicine that has been done for centuries. However, she said very little, if any, research has been done on human placenta consumption in any form. That’s until this year.

Selander has been involved in research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas involving placenta consumption and she said two studies will be published later this year in the Journal of Ecology of Food and Nutrition. One study looks at the benefits of taking pills, and the other compares raw tissue with dehydrated tissue to see if nutrients are lost during the preparation process.

While she can’t divulge the details, Selander said both have been promising. She said a majority of the mothers surveyed reported a positive experience after consuming placenta.

Additionally, researchers learned that while some nutrients were lessened during the encapsulation process, she said none were destroyed, and in some cases the nutrients were actually higher.

“There isn’t a lot of research into the human placentophagy, so these studies will be among the first coming out and hopefully, the first of many,” she said.

Selandar began offering an online training course for placenta encapsulation in late 2007 and more than 200 people have completed it with 100 currently taking the course.

“It’s increasing every single year,” she said of the number of trainees. She said people who live in Canada, South Korea and Australia have taken the course. In the United States, it’s most popular on the West Coast, and slowly growing in the Midwest. It’s least popular in the South.

Among those who have taken her course is Mason, 33, of Lawrence, who has been a doula for 10 years.

•••

Mason worked with many women who suffered postpartum. For some, it was depression but for others it was exhaustion, anxiety and/or irritability.

“It’s just a hard time for a lot of people when you have a newborn baby,” she said, and added there aren’t a lot of options for treatment. Typically, mothers are prescribed antidepressants and then they have to stop nursing or they just have to suffer through the symptoms, Mason said.

“I was just like, ‘Gosh, there’s got to be something better out there,’” she said.

So, Mason began researching alternative treatments and learned about placenta encapsulation. She took the online course in 2010 and then began offering the placenta encapsulation service. In addition to the pills, she also makes tincture and a salve.

Mason said the general benefits of consuming placenta are increased milk production, hormone balance and increased energy. She said the salve can help with any kind of skin condition, including C-section scars, hemorrhoids, nipple soreness and diaper rash.

So far, she’s provided the services for about 90 women in the region and has traveled to Manhattan, Emporia and Columbia, Mo. She does all of the work in the client’s home and charges between $150 and $350, depending on the distance she travels. Mason said she follows Food and Drug Administration guidelines and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

“I had no idea what to expect and I really have been amazed at the response,” she said.

Mason has developed a hands-on training course and began offering it this year. So, far she has trained eight women. She also has written a 51-page guide to making placenta remedies called Mothercake.

“I’m not at all squeamish about anything. I mean I’ve been at lots of births and have worked in doctor’s offices and hospitals. So, I don’t know what a normal person would say. I’m probably not a normal person,” she said, laughing.

She said placenta is about the size of a small dinner plate and looks like bloody meat. Some people say it smells like liver when she’s steaming it.

“What I’ve noticed is that moms typically like the smell and dads typically don’t,” she said. “I had one teenage son who had to leave the kitchen one time while I was doing it, but other than that I really haven’t had people be too grossed out about it. I think it’s one of those things that people expect to be more grossed out than they actually turn out to be.”

Lawrence resident Lilly Mason, and her son, Oscar Paden, 3, look at a book that Mason has written about the benefits of placenta consumption and how to make placenta into postpartum remedies. They are pictured at home on Friday, April 27, 2012. Mason has been a doula for 10 years, and she owns a business called Joyful Choice Birth Services, which offers placenta encapsulation.

Lawrence resident Lilly Mason, and her son, Oscar Paden, 3, look at a book that Mason has written about the benefits of placenta consumption and how to make placenta into postpartum remedies. They are pictured at home on Friday, April 27, 2012. Mason has been a doula for 10 years, and she owns a business called Joyful Choice Birth Services, which offers placenta encapsulation. by Richard Gwin

•••

Count Cole Cottin, 29, of Lawrence, among them.

She gave birth to her first child, Irie Phelps, seventh months ago at home and Mason was her doula. About three hours after the birth, her daughter started showing signs of infection and she was rushed to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Cottin said it was a very traumatic experience and she was exhausted when Mason showed up at the hospital with four small pieces of her raw placenta on top of hummus.

“Though I had many doubts in my mind that I would even take the capsules, when I saw the placenta and I had the shakes and was in that situation, my body wanted it and right now. I don’t know how to explain it, but I ate it,” she said. “There was never a moment when I thought, ‘This is disgusting.’”

Cottin said the energy she received from the placenta lasted about 24 hours, and then she called her midwife wanting more. So, they brought her the capsules and she took them every day.

“I believe it’s a huge part of what sustained me,” she said of the 15 days she sat by her daughter’s bedside as she fought group B strep pneumonia.

Today, mom and baby are fine.

“I took that placenta to keep me strong. That was my benefit and I am so grateful for it,” she said. “But, I definitely think it’s a personal choice.”

Emporia resident Abigail Smith, 30, said she suffered from severe postpartum depression with her first child four years ago, so she decided to try placenta consumption with the second one.

“I didn’t have the money to encapsulate, so I did it myself at home. I was willing to try anything,” she said.

Smith delivered her second child at home last year. She said she processed the placenta within a few days after the delivery by steaming it, drying it and then cutting it up into tiny pieces. Then, she wrapped bread around the pieces, froze them and swallowed them like pills. She was impressed with the results.

“I did not get postpartum depression. The days that I forgot to take it, I could feel my mood actually starting to swing down,” she said.

While she has no regrets about eating the placenta, she wouldn’t prepare it herself again. “I was very grossed out by it,” Smith said. She also didn’t have the proper equipment, which resulted in big and little pieces instead of one standard size.

“I strongly recommend getting someone else to do it,” she said.

•••

At Lawrence Memorial Hospital, there are about 1,000 births each year. An estimated 2 percent of the mothers request to have their placenta saved.

“We get them occasionally,” said Bonnie Jackson, a nurse who has worked in labor and delivery there for five years. “We don’t ask them what they are doing with it. We just send it with them.”

Jackson said there is no cost to the patient. The staff puts it in a container instead of disposing of it, and they request someone take it home as soon as possible.

Jackson also has worked in Hawaii, where she said it was more common for women to save their placentas.

“The vast majority just want to take it home and plant a tree or something like that,” she said. “Over my career that’s been the main thing.”

In Junction City, Dr. Anwar Khoury said he has been practicing obstetrics for 16 years and just recently heard about placenta encapsulation. He said he’s never had a patient ask to save her placenta, and he works with a midwife.

“For centuries, people have had stories about people eating their placentas and preparing them, and mostly people claim that it helps with postpartum depression now. But I am not aware of any studies that prove that. It’s all just anecdotal,” he said.


DOULA TO ANSWER QUESTIONS DURING CHAT

Lawrence resident Lilly Mason will be available at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 9, to discuss natural childbirth and placenta consumption.

Mason, 33, has been a doula for 10 years and is becoming a certified midwife. She has been teaching childbirth classes since 2005, and she owns a business called Joyful Choice Birth Services, which offers placenta encapsulation, natural birth preparation classes, fertility cycling awareness classes and midwives assistant services.

She also has written “Mothercake: A Guide to Making Placenta Remedies.” It provides detailed instructions for making placenta capsules, tincture and salve, and it is available on blurb.com.

Mason will be participating in an online chat on WellCommons.com. You can submit questions at anytime at WellCommons.com/chats. Make sure to log back on to WellCommons.com during or after the chat to see if your question was answered.

Tagged: Placenta Benefits, postpartum depression, childbirth, placenta

Comments

OldEnuf2BYurDad 2 years, 5 months ago

Let me be the first to say "Urrff!"

In all seriousness, Lilly is a great resource for mother's who want to explore as many natural options as possible during childbirth.

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Aiko 2 years, 5 months ago

Man, there are so many things about his that disturbs me.....

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garyr 2 years, 5 months ago

Calm down McCoy, this has been going on for years. When my son was born, in the late 70's, my wife and I both experienced this. You need to have more of an open mind. What I tasted from it, was very bitter, and a bit sour. But, I did feel a burst of energy and I feel it brought me a bit more connected to my son!! Give it a try!!!

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the_realest_mccoy 2 years, 5 months ago

Why on earth would a dude eat his wife's afterbirth? That's just nasty. Just plain nasty. Come on, this is not some third-world country where you have to eat the placenta to keep the fly population down or something. And I would imagine there are a number of illnesses that can arise from eating someone else's grody afterbirth goop, even if it is prepared and served with hummus. YUCK!

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 5 months ago

Fadi Aramouni, a K-State professor of food science, questioned the safety of placenta consumption. He said it depended on how it was handled and prepared. He did say: Do not eat someone else's placenta.

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garyr 2 years, 5 months ago

Mr. McCoy, I'm going to try and read your mind: There's no way I'm going to eat the afterbirth. I may get an illness which would keep me from grabbin' my gun and shootin' me a deer!!! YEEEEE HAAAAWWWW!! I don't care how close it brings me to my significant other and newborn.

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the_realest_mccoy 2 years, 5 months ago

+1 for common sense and decency. -1 for tree-hugging placenta eaters.

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garyr 2 years, 5 months ago

Let me guess McCoy, you're probably the same person who doesn't belive in yourself / your spouse breastfeeding their kid either.....Especially in public..

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the_realest_mccoy 2 years, 5 months ago

Actually I'm fine with women breastfeeding in most spaces open to the public, however, I do think it should be prohibited in restaurants. Last fall I, and several others, became sick all over Zen Zero after witnessing a nursing baby sitting directly across from me projectile vomit in his mother's face. She in turn proceeded to vomit, and before long, the entire restaurant was either vomiting or dry heaving or running for the exit. No lie.

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garyr 2 years, 5 months ago

So, McCoy, you're against eating placenta, but I bet you go to town on Rocky Mountain oysters!!

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the_realest_mccoy 2 years, 5 months ago

Why would you say that? I'm clearly a heterosexual.

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guppypunkhead 2 years, 5 months ago

consumer1 - no one in this article was selling placenta to eat. The women in the article were only eating their own, not from anyone else. Try reading the article.

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blindrabbit 2 years, 5 months ago

Yum: Nothing like a good mix of placentas, mountain oysters, sweetbreads, tripe, brains, kidneys and other bodily orts.

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veggiegirl 2 years, 5 months ago

Is there any science to actually prove positive effects after consumption are anything other than placebo?

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citizenx 2 years, 5 months ago

reneekangaroo: Research?? That would require effort.

The benefits, besides nutritional, are hormonal. The levels of oxytocin are unbelievably high--which allowed Cole to feel energy after eating only 4 little pieces. I am sure the recent studies will show that the benefits are real because this is so obvious to the mothers who have tried this method of postpartum care.

I like this article--thank you for a balanced look at something out-of-the-norm gaining popularity in our community. I am interested in why the nearest doctor who could be found to disparage placenta consumption as placebo or myth is from Junction City!?! Interesting. Are Lawrence docs more liberal toward this sort of thing, or simply not wanting to be seen as conservative??

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for your comments. I talked to four health professionals who said there is no scientific research/evidence to support the claims that it helps in postpartum — I figured that was plenty for my story. They included the LMH nurse, a K-State food science professor, the Junction City doctor and Jodi Selander. In making calls, it was interesting to hear how many health professionals didn't know much about placenta consumption or encapsulation and referred me elsewhere — some of these people have worked in the nutrition and health field for years.

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citizenx 2 years, 5 months ago

I guess I wouldn't really expect everyone to know about this. Many people and companies are aware of the benefits, but it's relegated to extremism by most people. I know, it sounds extreme. Eat the organ that your body grew for your baby? And--oh yes--the benefits are real. And no, you can't get the same nutrients anywhere else, because so many of the nutrients are actually not nutrients at all, but certain amino acids and hormones. I've read a lot about this. My midwife had a great book on the topic.

Placenta has been used in expensive creams for decades--yes--human placenta. Those who know it works--they know. Why not DIY and get all of the benefits without paying $500/oz? Also, you can go to Sally's and get yourself some placenta hair cream treatment. It uses animal placenta, but not because human placenta would be somehow ineffective.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 5 months ago

david carradine, tom cruise, and beldar conehead, ate them some placenta.......or was that polenta with marinara?

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 5 months ago

Great question. The state does not regulate placenta encapsulation or the process of making other remedies. There is no license or inspection. The state also does not regulate or have a certification process for midwives or doulas. Additionally, the city does not offer a license or inspection. However, Mason is certified by Las Vegas-based Placenta Benefits. She also is working toward earning a national certification to become a midwife.

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chestylion13 2 years, 5 months ago

Do not confuse a lay midwife with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). There is absolutely state regulation and a certification process to be a CNM. The state of Kansas requires a Master's degree in Nursing, active licensure as a Registered Nurse, and the CNM must have passed a national licensing exam and must complete continuing education. There are lay midwifes who do not complete formal training, however the CNM is well-educated and his or her practice is regulated by the state.

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the clarification! I certainly appreciate it.

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geekin_topekan 2 years, 5 months ago

I have seen it fried up with onions in a cast iron pan. While the mother and baby nursed, the mid-wives and guests ate the placenta.

True story, mine eyes have seen the act first hand.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for ruining my breakfast. This story could easily have remained electronically buried instead of occupying the online banner.

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Mixolydian 2 years, 5 months ago

Franken and Davis used to do a skit about Placenta Helper. Squeamish then, squeamish now.

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blindrabbit 2 years, 5 months ago

with fava beans and a fine chianti!

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christy kennedy 2 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely, makes total sense, as we are indeed mammals. Lilly and others like her really know what they're doing and are just ahead of the curve . . . if you consider going back to something essential and often life saving that has been done for millions of years 'ahead of the curve.' Good work ladies, you're significantly helping moms, babies and families. There will always be detractors, but it's better to have to face them (and try to inform) than to be one!

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RoeDapple 2 years, 5 months ago

"All natural dried placenta capsules" . . Yeah, that makes sense . . .

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 5 months ago

Definitely not a subject for the squeamish. But once you get past that barrier it's easy to see why this procedure is seeing increased use.

Many women are prey to post-partum depression, which can be an immediate and serious threat to their personal safety. Anything that can minimize this transitory but dangerous form of depression, or ward it off entirely, is a wonderful thing even if there be instances where the benefits are purely psychological; that is, she simply believes it is helping or strongly suspects that it is.

There can be no doubt that the placenta is a powerhouse of nutrients and chemicals; after all, its development is the result of the woman's body cannibalizing various components from other areas (bones, teeth) while diverting food intake nutrients to build the placenta and develop the fetus.

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jayhawkster 2 years, 5 months ago

I can't wait for this to Local Burger to make this one of the protein options. I'd call it the MILF Burger. Or the Beef Baby Burger. People might confuse that with veal, though. Hmmm - the "IUD" (Intrauterine deliciousnes) maybe? How about the "Unplanned Surprise Burger." Whatever the name, definitely lots of ketchup and mayo.

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geekin_topekan 2 years, 5 months ago

Actually. it smells just like liver when cooking.

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50YearResident 2 years, 5 months ago

I raised Golden Retrievers and none of the puppies would have survived if the mother dog had not eatten the placenta to give the puppies air. I never saw any ill effects by doing it and it wasn't cooked, dehydrated or sanitized. I bet our ancestors did the practice back in their early days of our history.

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droppinplates 2 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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blindrabbit 2 years, 5 months ago

The main reason that animals eat the placenta is to eliminate any evidence that their young are near so not as to attract scavengers and predators! Most young prey animals are essentially scentless for the first few days after their birth or at least until they are mobile on their own. A rotting (excuse me) piece of meat sitting nearby would not be helpful! This is not intended to speak to the housekeeping qualities of the "mothers" in this story however!

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AJSmith 2 years, 5 months ago

How do you know that's the "main reason"? Do the animals speak to you? Do animals prioritize their reasons for doing things? Can you prove it? Could there not be more than one reason?

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citizenx 2 years, 5 months ago

@ AJSmith: Like. That is all.

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Megan Green Stuke 2 years, 5 months ago

I know for a fact that my placenta was "used up" - I think the doctor's words were, "That's pretty ratty." Biohazard bin. Bye bye. It did a great job. I thank it for its role in making my baby. That is all.

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droppinplates 2 years, 5 months ago

Only in Lawrence does someone get in the paper for eating afterbirth, and be called "forward thinking"! Yeah, the next craze to hit America...and it started in Lawrence, KS!! Hahahaha. FREAKS!!!

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citizenx 2 years, 5 months ago

And...you would be the one that didn't know the placenta existed before reading this article. Am I right? It's ok, you don't have to admit it. If you hate Lawrence why don't you move to Junction City? Sounds like an amazing place for someone like you. It's safe. No one has heard of anything there, and you'll never have to think. Sounds like you're not that good at it anyway.

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jamielightblog 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm frankly a little appalled at the responses to this article. If you don't think it's a good idea, you don't have to do it. If you do think it's a good idea, that doesn't mean everyone else has to. Why the need to be so harsh toward each other?

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jayhawkster 2 years, 5 months ago

Don't take it to heart. The "troll" phenomenon crops up wherever anonymous posting is allowed. Wikipedia has a lengthy explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(I...) Best bet is to either chuckle and move on to the substantive comments or ignore the comments section altogether. And come on, event the practitioners agree that placentophagy isn't for the squeamish, so Ms. Britt probably anticipated at least a few trolls. Incidentally, Norwegian trolls practice placentophagy.

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