Let me start by saying I support my doula sisters who make a few extra bucks by encapsulating placentas. Doulas/Childbirth Educators are always hopefully learning some things from each other, either in real life or this wild world of cyber support via blogs, social media, email forums, etc. We wrap our loving arms around each other in times of need, we offer each other our experiences, suggestions, etc, but we also keep each other in check. We provide accountability for each other. Usually it's done with gentleness and understanding. So I want to be careful because I believe with all my heart that most of us, while we make a little income from our important work with families, truly are in it for the love of supporting moms and babies. I cannot shake this feeling of needing to speak up about something that's been bugging me for a while. I do not mind placenta encapsulators advertising their business, but what I do mind is them stating that there is 'research' supporting the benefits of encapsulation. In particular, regarding the reduction of post partum depression and increase of milk production, though especially the former is really bugging me lately. This is a serious claim, on a serious issue. This can and IS giving moms the impression that there is actually evidence supporting that their dried and crushed placenta taken in pill form can prevent them from getting a PPMD. There is no such evidence that I'm aware of. And I've been told by PE, "YES THERE IS - here's the links! Smiley face" Many times, similar posts show up on these various groups. I've looked at everything they've provided and called 'evidence' before - it was not. It is all based on hypothesis. And I don't think it's an unreasonable one either, I just have a problem with how it's being presented sometimes. I know I'm not the only one thinking it. I know a handful of local doulas, even some who encapsulate or have in the past, who agree with me! I read some of these links and think, "You're kidding, right?" This 'research' says things about women quite possibly lacking iron after the expulsion of the placenta and this is the cause of PPMD. Or similarly, the release of all the hormones in the placenta is the cause of it. But none of these links are studies showing that the consumption of the placenta fixes this hypothetical cause of PPMD, let alone consumption through capsules. Some encapsulators are making a great business out of it, too. Teaching classes to other birth professionals on the how to's - there's one coming to Philly soon. Thank goodness for it, honestly, because initially, women were out there bringing other women's blood products into their own homes with not nearly as much information on safe handling or various processing techniques. What this class is going to cover sounds great. And to be perfectly clear - I support my doula sisters who encapsulate, I refer my clients out for this service if they want it, I have my own encapsulated placenta in my freezer, and I understand the theories and why it makes sense. However, can't we just be more upfront with moms about what this 'research' actually says? When I click through to the educator's beautiful website, I don't see any grandiose claims, but I do notice a some resource links on the left side of her site on 'scientific research' and 'benefits' - however, none of the links open to anything. A recent post on a social media site shows a question from a mom asking if there was any scientific evidence for doing placental encapsulation to prevent PPD. Not to my surprise, again, some PE and maybe some other moms pop in with these links that say nothing of what she's asking. I posted this quote from one of the better articles cited. "Evidence is limited in the areas regarding specific hormones and nutrients a placenta may offer, proposed benefits for nutrition, and prevention of postnatal depression and increased lactation. Interestingly, these are the primary reasons sited to support placentophagy." (Beacock, 2012) - From a British Medical Journal article. Some of these articles, from what I've read of the ones that actually studied something related to placentophagy, seem to say that there are hypotheses and theories based on the components in placenta being able to bridge the gap in terms of hormones lost after expulsion of placenta, however, it is stated more than once that 'evidence is absent'. So, to end, I do not believe there is research that specifically supports placenta ingestion through capsule form being proven to reduce PPD. Anecdotally, amongst my clients and many others I know who've ingested their placenta pills, there are mixed reviews. The reason for that could be many. I just ask that if you are advertising your placenta services, teaching how to encapsulate, or simply commenting on posts like the one mentioned, be very upfront with moms about what research actually says and does not say. Be clear about what is anecdotal, what is theory, what is your opinion, experience, and the limited research there is on anything regarding placental ingestion for treatment or prevention of anything. People will still choose it without having to be led to believe there is scientific evidence supporting it. ~
Thank you, Rebecca Dekker, once again! Whether we (speaking for birth professionals) already have an opinion or not, I think we should all know this information to be able to pass onto clients/students who are asking us what we think or know about the possible risks of getting or refusing the vitamin K shot following birth. This was a lot of work, I know it! Thank you again for clearing the myths surrounding this after-birth intervention and bringing light to fact that parents are so often bombarded with misinformation on the net, even perpetuated sometimes by doulas and childbirth educators. Well worth the $5 to purchase the pdf as a handout for clients and classes.
To read an interview with Rebecca Dekker from Evidence Based Birth, visit Science and Sensibility.
To get the pdf, for free or $5 suggested donation, visit here.