Frequently Asked Questions

The Myths

Is it biologically safe to consume my placenta? Won’t it be full of waste and toxins?

Your placenta acts as heart, lungs and kidneys for your developing baby, so very much a transfer station for baby’s waste products to be dealt with by your organs, rather than it absorbing and retaining anything nasty. That said, the placenta struggles with heavy metals, but in a recent study[1] potentially toxic elements such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury were found in raw placenta, but at levels well below the EU toxicity threshold for foodstuffs. As long as you are a non-cigarette smoker (cigarettes contain high levels of cadmium), your placenta will be perfectly safe to consume.

[1] Johnson SK, Groten T, Pastuschek J. Human Placentophagy: Effects of dehydration and steaming on hormones, metals and bacteria in placental tissue. 2018. [PubMed: 29941176]

How supportive are midwives and consultants?

The number of new mothers choosing to consume their placenta has been growing steadily over the last decade in the UK and for even longer in the USA. Now with more celebrities choosing to share their experience, numbers have risen sharply more recently. Midwives in particular have exposure to a growing number of new mothers reporting how well they’re doing after consuming their placenta, so acceptance and support for a mother’s wishes in this respect continues to grow amongst midwifery teams. In fact, some placenta specialists are midwives themselves!

I’m a vegetarian/vegan – is it OK to consume my placenta?

Although the placenta is technically meat, it has come from the mother herself and nothing has been farmed, been mistreated or has died in order to produce it. Many vegetarian mothers say they crave meat during pregnancy and the idea of consuming their own placenta is very appealing. The capsules used by most Specialists are vegetarian, containing no gelatin, so it’s entirely suitable for vegetarian and vegan mothers to consume their own placentas in capsule form.

Isn’t consuming your placenta cannibalism?

Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other deceased human beings. The placenta is totally unique in that it is actually made up from both the fetus and the mother, so it belongs 100% to neither one nor the other. The placenta is a fetomaternal organ with two components: the fetal placenta (Chorion frondosum), which develops from the same blastocyst that forms the fetus, and the maternal placenta (Decidua basalis), which develops from the maternal uterine tissue.

So no, it’s not cannibalism for a mother to eat her own placenta, as it is her own organ (albeit shared with her baby) and nobody has died as a result of her getting it.

Why don’t humans instinctively and routinely consume their placenta when most other land mammals do?

Truth is, we don’t know for certain. Although we can trace placenta preparations back to traditional, historical practices in Western and Asian medicine the natural instinct to routinely consume placenta seems to remain prevalent in over 4000 species of land mammal, but no longer humans. As apes and other non-human primates within our genus routinely consume their placentas, the suggestion is that our move away from this practice is evolutionary.

Having discovered fire, women were largely responsible for keeping it going and woodsmoke contains cadmium, a heavy metal which we now know can build up in the placenta (also in cigarette smoke and why regular smokers should not consume their placenta). Did we start getting sick after consuming our placenta immediately after giving birth due to cadmium poisoning? Did we then develop a natural instinct to avoid consuming our placenta?  For a fascinating read on this, try ‘The Conspicuous Absence of Placenta Consumption in Human Postpartum Females: The Fire Hypothesis’ by Young, Benyshek & Lienard. 2012.

Need Help Choosing?

What is the difference between Steamed and Simple capsule preparation? Which should I choose?

Basically, the placenta is either steamed before dehydrating (Steamed preparation) or it is dehydrated from raw (Simple preparation). The

Feedback from mothers is directly comparable for both preparations, so whichever you choose, you end up with very potent capsules.

On a practical level, the Simple preparation tends to yield 10-15% more capsules than Steamed and the majority of new mothers opt for this preparation.

What is the difference between Essence and Tincture?

Placenta Essence has been described as a great all-round remedy, for perking up or calming down and to be reached for when feeling under the weather emotionally or physically.

Placenta Tincture’s real strength has been reported in re-balancing hormones which can become distressed during PMS or menopause. Tincture can also be used as a base for homeopathic remedies.

Is it best to consume my placenta raw, cooked or dried?

All or any of the above! The placenta is rich in stem cells and growth factors, so it makes sense that consuming a piece of raw placenta in a smoothie immediately after giving birth should aid your physical recovery. You only need a 3” round piece of placenta for a smoothie, so this leaves plenty for encapsulation and other remedies.

Will placenta capsules boost my milk supply and ward off the ‘baby blues’ and postnatal depression?

What we do know is the hormonal composition of the placenta and the effect these hormones can have on a new mother. Those in highest concentrations are:-

  • Corticotropin (CRH) the body’s natural stress relieving hormone found at its most concentrated in the placenta. When your placenta goes, so does this concentrated stash of this precious hormone.
  • Oxytocin not only for bonding, but also for pain relief, contracting the uterus and facilitating the release of breastmilk.
  • Human Placental Lactogen (hPL) for stimulating mammary gland function
  • Prolactin for stimulating milk production

What we don’t have is any scientific research or evidence-based studies on the effects of new mothers consuming their placenta. Research requires substantial funding and as none of the large corporates with available budget stand to profit from new mothers’ consuming their own placenta, this field of research remains untapped.

The Process

How do I keep my placenta safe after giving birth? What do I need to prepare?

Your placenta will need to start chilling within 30 minutes of its arrival, so it reaches less than 8°c within 4 hours, so make sure your birth partner, attending midwife and consultant are fully aware of your wishes. Your Specialist should provide you with detailed guidelines to share with them on how to safely handle your placenta and most provide safe storage packs as part of their service.

Safe storage packs include a clean, labelled container with a new leak-proof food storage bag inside, a good quality cool bag and enough ice blocks to make up at least 10% of the volume of the cool bag.

Homebirths: transfer the container to the fridge within 30 minutes of placenta’s arrival.

Hospital Births: transfer the container to the cool bag and surround with frozen ice blocks within 30 minutes of placenta’s arrival, then transfer to a fridge within 12 hours.

Why should I choose a PRISM/IPEN trained Specialist to prepare my placenta?

All PRISM/IPEN Specialists are trained and certified by a training provider, whose methods comply with food safety guidelines generating highly skilled placenta services providers.

These Specialists also hold valid certificates in Food Safety Level 2, Hazard Analysis (HACCP) Level 2 and Infection Control.

Being part of such an influential group within the placenta services sector working closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Public Health and Environmental Health also ensures each member follows current best practice and is updated on regulatory developments as they arise.

Will my birth partner or I have to handle the placenta?

Not unless you want to! Your birth partner may be asked to place the container in the cool bag/fridge, but usually the midwives will make sure your placenta is safely inside the leak-proof food bag and container before handing it over. In any event, if you’re squeamish don’t worry, your midwife won’t be and will be happy to help if you ask.

How do I get my placenta to my specialist after giving birth?

Your specialist will come to collect your placenta as soon as possible after being notified. If you give birth in hospital, collection is usually from there. You should notify your specialist as soon as your placenta is ready for collection, but certainly within 12 hours of giving birth. Basically, the sooner your specialist can get started, the sooner you can start taking your capsules.

Can my placenta be prepared in my own home?

Most definitely. This usually consists of two visits of around 1.5 hours, 24 hours apart. Your specialist will need uninterrupted use of your kitchen during this time and somewhere safe to leave the dehydrator overnight. They will bring all the equipment they need with them. Most specialists are equipped to prepare your placenta in your own home, but if they’re not, they will help you find another who is.

How long does the encapsulation process take?

Your specialist should get your capsules back to you within 72 hours of collection. If there is an unavoidable delay, your specialist should keep you informed.

How many capsules will I get and how do I take them?

Placentas can vary enormously in size and weight, just like babies! On average, a full-term placenta will yield around 130 steamed preparation capsules and 150 simple (from raw) preparation capsules.

Taking capsules with food or a drink rich in Vitamin C (eg. orange juice) is recommended to aid absorption.

We usually recommend taking 1-2 capsules 3 times a day initially to see how you get on, taking more or less as you see fit. Each new mother and their placenta is unique, so it’s finding a balance that works for you.

How do I store my capsules safely?

Store in a cool, dry, dark place, but not the fridge due to risk of moisture from condensation.

It is recommended to consume your capsules within 6 months of the date of preparation.

Can I have a water birth?

Most definitely! Many women find water can relieve the intensity of labour and that it can ease the transition of birth for the baby. However, if your placenta is birthed into the pool after the birth of your baby, unfortunately it’s not considered safe to consume.

I froze my placenta – can it still be used?

As long as your placenta has been frozen for less than 6 months, was handled and stored safely, including starting to chill or freeze within 30 minutes of giving birth, then all should be well.

Can I donate cord blood or have cord blood banking?

Yes. Just make certain your cord blood care providers are totally clear on your wishes to consume your placenta, so no swabs are used during the process and most importantly, your placenta is not left out at room temperature for longer than necessary.

Can I have a lotus birth and encapsulate my placenta?

Lotus birth is when the baby is left connected to the placenta until the cord naturally dries and detaches – usually after 3-4 days – during which time the placenta can be routinely rubbed with salt and herbs. Although a true lotus birth and placenta encapsulation are mutually exclusive, there are still ways to benefit from other placenta remedies and have a lotus birth. Your Placenta Specialist should be able to help you.

I’m running low on capsules – is there anything I can do?

Number one, don’t panic! If you’re running low or have some capsules left over and wish to have longer-term remedies made, contact your Specialist. You can have a tincture or homeopathic remedies prepared from dried placenta powder.

If your Specialist is registered and certified in the preparation of cosmetics, creams and balms, they will also be able to prepare personalised skincare products for you like facial oil, whipped body cream and moisturising balm using oil infused with dried placenta powder. For more details please ask your Specialist.

I have capsules left over. Can I save them for future pregnancies, future postnatal recovery or to help ease menopausal symptoms?

Due to hormones that can cause the uterus to contract, your placenta remedies should NOT be consumed when pregnant.

Each placenta is unique and will contain the right balance of hormones and nutrients required by you and your baby at that point in time. We advise a fresh set of remedies for each postnatal recovery, as they will be finely tuned to your body’s requirements.

For a longer-term remedy, potentially to ease menopausal symptoms, the most stable recommendation is to make a tincture. This can be prepared with fresh placenta immediately after giving birth, or later with dried placenta powder. Your Specialist will be able to support you with this.

Can I share my placenta remedies with others?

With the exception of the homeopathic remedies prepared for your baby, all remedies are recommended for the mother’s use only.

Possible Complications

What if I am induced, have a medicated labour and birth or a c-section?

Medication, analgesia or local anaesthetic that can commonly present themselves during labour and birth are not contraindicated for consuming your placenta. Any traces found in the placenta are not in significant enough quantities to be a problem.

If you birth your baby by c-section, just make sure the midwife looking after you on the day is aware of your wishes and they will usually take your container into theatre with them.

What if I go overdue?

Your Estimated Due Date (EDD) is exactly that – estimated. If you sail beyond your EDD, your placenta will keep functioning and if everything else is going well, will be fine for consumption.

Your specialist will simply wait patiently for news from you. We’re all very used to playing the waiting game.

What if my baby is born early/premature?

Babies are considered full term from 37 weeks onwards. If your baby is born before 37 weeks, it may be necessary or you may be asked if your placenta can be examined further. Often, you have a choice and often, the only consideration is that you may have a slightly smaller placenta.

If your placenta is sent to Pathology/Histology then it’s no longer safe to consume, even if it’s returned to you, as you cannot be certain if the placenta has been contaminated with chemicals or instruments.

Your specialist will by default expect the unexpected, so if your baby arrives early they will be ready to support you, or definitely help find someone at short notice who can.

What if I have the injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta (a managed 3rd stage)?

By choice, it’s best not to opt for a managed 3rd stage, keeping your placenta free from traces of the artificial hormone used. That said, traces found in the placenta are not in significant enough quantities to be a problem, so if it’s recommended or you choose a managed 3rd stage, then you will still be able to consume your placenta.

What if my placenta is retained/removed in theatre?

In terms of preparing your placenta for consumption, it makes no difference if it’s removed in theatre or in sections. What’s important here is that your midwife is aware of your wishes and keeps your placenta safe.

What if there’s meconium during the birth? (When baby opens its bowels before it’s born)

Raw placenta smoothies are not recommended from placentas exposed to meconium. If you have opted for the Simple (from raw) preparation capsules, then your Specialist will switch to the Steamed preparation instead. All other remedies are unaffected.

Are there any unexpected circumstances when my placenta cannot be used?

It’s quite rare for a placenta to be rendered unsuitable for consumption, especially if the team supporting you at your birth are fully aware of your wishes. But it can happen, mostly due to one of the following:-

  • The placenta has not been stored or chilled correctly
  • Placental/Uterine infection confirmed – your placenta can be swabbed then frozen pending results.
  • Placenta is sent to Pathology/Histology for testing then returned – your placenta may have become contaminated with chemicals.

If your placenta does end up being unsuitable for consumption, you ALWAYS have the option for homeopathic remedies to be made, as no physical part of the placenta is consumed. Your Specialist will be able to help you with this.

I smoke a few cigarettes a day – is it OK to consume my placenta?

Unfortunately not, as cigarette smoke contains high levels of cadmium, a heavy metal that builds up in the placental tissue over time. Consuming your placenta would put you at increased risk of cadmium poisoning.

I’ve tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS) infection – can I still consume my placenta?

Most definitely yes! However raw placenta smoothies and Simple preparation capsules are not recommended. You would need to opt for the Steamed preparation capsules which will ensure any GBS bacteria is removed before dehydration. All other remedies are unaffected.

I’ve previously tested positive for HIV, AIDS, HepB, HepC or CJD. Can I still have my placenta encapsulated?

You can, but many Specialists have opted not to place themselves at increased risk. Many offer help, support and even equipment to guide you through preparing your placenta yourself so please, just ask.

I’m on regular medication – can I still have placenta remedies made?

Usually it’s all OK, but we do ask you to seek approval from your prescribing doctor, midwife or consultant. On their approval, your booking can be confirmed.

Have any side effects been reported?

This list is in order of frequency reported, starting with the most frequently reported side-effect down to the least. The number of times reported is noted in brackets (reports made to IPEN).

  • Mild headache which eased when dosage of placenta capsules reduced (8)
  • Oversupply of milk which eased when dosage of placenta capsules reduced (4)
  • Reduction in milk supply (3)
  • Baby acne/spots on face (2)
  • Rush of energy after taking capsules (2)
  • Feeling a little queasy (1)
  • Feeling spaced out (1)
  • Hot flushes (1)
  • Joint pain when breastfeeding at night (1)

Total 264 respondents from Jan 2017 to October 2018

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