THE AMAZING PLACENTA
Do you have concerns or fears about what your postpartum experience will be like after the birth of your baby? Putting a support system in place and allowing yourself to receive help is vitally important. But even with the best of support, new mothers can still feel engulfed postpartum. Lack of sleep, the sudden hormone and lifestyle changes, a body healing from birth, a crying newborn -- all contribute to the overwhelm. While it can be common to experience the “baby blues” days 3-5 postpartum, for many mothers the overwhelm and anxiety can continue. Some women will experience postpartum depression which can be debilitating.
An increasingly popular way to help create a smoother postpartum period is placenta encapsulation. The most common benefits reported by the more than 400 clients that my colleague and I have provided encapsulation services for are increased energy, increased milk supply, and stability in their mood. Many of these mothers and their partners refer to the placenta pills as their “happy pills.” These same results along with other self-reported benefits have been concurred in a 2013 study, "Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption."* The researchers stated, “We surveyed 189 females who had ingested their placenta and found the majority of these women reported perceived positive benefits and indicated they would engage in placentophagy (consuming the placenta postpartum) again after subsequent births.” We are finding this to be true as well. Clients are requesting our placenta encapsulation services when they become pregnant again.
The placenta is nourishing and hormone rich. In a 2016 study**, researchers analyzed 28 placenta samples processed for encapsulation using liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to evaluate the concentration of 17 hormones. The results revealed detectable concentrations for 16 of the hormones analyzed, some in concentrations that could conceivably yield physiological effects. A few of the hormones found in the placenta are: estrogen -- which stimulates healing and has been shown to increased mental clarity and emotional balance; progesterone — which improves cognitive function, boosts energy, and decreases anxiety; corticotropin-releasing hormone — equips the mind and body to handle high levels of stress; and thyrotropin-releasing hormone — which stimulates the release of prolactin and has anti-depressant properties.
Although not common place knowledge, the medical use of the placenta has been around in various cultures for hundreds (Germany as an example) and even thousands of years as is the case of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rural midwives in the US and across the world have traditionally used the placenta to stop a postpartum hemorrhage.
Currently placentas are being used in regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy, wound healing, eye trauma. "Human amniotic membrane has been used for various types of reconstructive surgical procedures since the early 1900s, and it is now also used to treat difficult-to-heal wounds and soft tissue injuries. In surgery, amniotic membrane can be used as a natural biological membrane at the surgical site. Amniotic membrane is currently showing great promise in the area of dentistry to treat gum disease." placentadonation.com
Birth Ease Placenta Services
*Human maternal placentophagy: a survey of self-reported motivations and experiences associated with placenta consumption.
Maternal placentophagy, although widespread among mammals, is conspicuously absent among humans cross-culturally. Recently, however, advocates for the practice have claimed it provides human postpartum benefits. Despite increasing awareness about placentophagy, no systematic research has investigated the motivations or perceived effects of practitioners. We surveyed 189 females who had ingested their placenta and found the majority of these women reported perceived positive benefits and indicated they would engage in placentophagy again after subsequent births. Further research is necessary to determine if the described benefits extend beyond those of placebo effects, or are skewed by the nature of the studied sample.
**Presence and concentration of 17 hormones in human placenta processed for encapsulation and consumption.
Human maternal placentophagy is a rare but growing practice in several industrialized countries among postpartum mothers seeking a variety of purported health benefits attributed to the practice. These postpartum mothers typically consume their placenta as a processed, encapsulated supplement. To determine whether free (unconjugated) steroid hormones and melatonin in placenta can survive the encapsulation process (namely steaming and dehydration), we analyzed 28 placenta samples processed for encapsulation using liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to evaluate the concentration of 17 hormones. The results revealed detectable concentrations for 16 of the hormones analyzed, some in concentrations that could conceivably yield physiological effects.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Effects of Human Maternal Placentophagy on Maternal Postpartum Iron Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study.
Advocates of human maternal placentophagy report that encapsulated placenta is an excellent source of dietary iron. Our study compared the effect of ingested encapsulated placenta on maternal postpartum iron status versus that of a beef placebo.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study (N = 23) was conducted among healthy human research participants experiencing a normal pregnancy. Maternal iron status was measured via hemoglobin, transferrin, and ferritin taken from blood samples drawn in the participants' homes at 4 time points: the 36th week of pregnancy, within 96 hours of parturition, between days 5 and 7 postpartum, and during week 3 postpartum. Iron concentrations in the encapsulated placenta and encapsulated beef placebo were compared using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.
Seventy-eight percent (18/23) of study participants' hemoglobin concentrations were above the World Health Organization cutoff for gestational iron deficiency (≥ 11.0 g/dL) during the 36th week of pregnancy. Results revealed no statistically significant differences (hemoglobin, P = .603; ferritin, P = .852; transferrin, P = .936) in maternal iron status (including postpartum iron rebound in the first week postpartum) between women in the placenta supplement (n = 10) and placebo (n = 13) groups. Average iron concentrations were considerably higher in encapsulated placenta (0.664 mg/g) compared to the encapsulated beef placebo (0.093 mg/g) but provided only 24% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron among lactating women based on the study's maximum daily intake.
The current study suggests that encapsulated placenta supplementation neither significantly improves nor impairs postpartum maternal iron status for women consuming the RDA of dietary iron during pregnancy and lactation, compared to a beef placebo. This may be an especially important finding for women who are iron deficient postpartum and whose only source of supplemental dietary iron is encapsulated placenta, as this may provide an inadequate source of supplemental iron in cases of deficiency.
© 2016 by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
As a note, here are the percentages of the DV (RDA) for recommended iron rich foods:
Spirulina: 1 ounce: 8 milligrams of iron (44 percent DV), Liver: 3 ounces of organic beef liver: 4.05 milligrams of iron (22.5 percent DV), Spinach: ½ cup cooked: 3.2 milligrams (17.8 percent DV), Grass-Fed Beef: One lean grass-fed strip steak (214 grams): 4 milligrams of iron (22 percent DV), Lentils: ½ cup: 3.3 milligrams of iron (20.4 percent DV), Dark Chocolate: 1 ounce: 3.3 milligrams iron (19 percent DV), Sardines: 1/4 cup: 1.8 milligrams (10 percent DV), Black beans: ½ cup: 1.8 milligrams (10 percent DV), Pistachios: 1 ounce: 1.1 milligrams (6.1 percent DV), Raisins: 1/4 cup: 1.1 milligrams (6.1 percent DV)
AMNIOTIC MEMBRANE USES
Human amniotic membrane has been used for various types of reconstructive surgical procedures since the early 1900s, and it is now also used to treat difficult-to-heal wounds and soft tissue injuries. In surgery, amniotic membrane can be used as a natural biological membrane at the surgical site.
Currently, amniotic membrane is experiencing widespread use in the area of ophthalmic surgery (eye surgery) as a substrate (foundation) to replace the damaged ocular tissue, as a patch (biological graft), or as a combination of both. Doctors use it to treat chemical burns, corneal ulceration, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and pterygium excision. MiMedx's amnion-based products have been successfully used as a reconstructive aid in over 50,000 ophthalmic surgeries.
Amniotic membrane is currently showing great promise in the area of dentistry to treat gum disease. The use of amniotic membrane allows the patient’s own gum tissue to facilitate the growth of new cells and tissue to replace the tissue lost due to gum disease. Without the use of amnion, the patient is forced to have tissue harvested from his/her soft palate to replace the lost gum tissue.
Doctors can also use amniotic membrane to treat difficult-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, burns, and other wounds that do not progress past the inflammatory stage of healing. The amniotic membrane helps to reduce inflammation, enhances soft tissue healing to help close the wound, and even reduces the formation of scar tissue, which often causes cosmetic and physical damage. The amnion delivers growth factors and other building block proteins to enhance the healing process and to help your own cells regenerate the damaged tissue and close the wound.
Soft tissue injuries are common in sports and occur as a result of trauma or overuse. Small tears in the tissue become inflamed and if chronic, may weaken and be more prone to tear. If scar tissue forms, it could further impede the healing process. As in difficult-to-heal wounds, amniotic membrane helps treat sports injuries by delivering growth factors and other natural proteins to reduce scar tissue formation and inflammation and enhance the healing of micro-tears in soft tissue.