To read part 1 of this series on placenta encapsulation, click here!
But there are some people who are not happy with the status quo. Some expecting parents are digging deeper in order to figure out who they are and who they want to be before their babies arrive. This effort takes a lot of energy. They are usually people who have been working towards becoming independent, autonomous individuals within the larger society for some time before they decide to become parents. They are people who know that consciously choosing to ask questions, make informed decisions, and go from there will require time, money, and support from partners, professionals, and those in their social circles who understand their desire to navigate their own uncharted waters. Here's what I know about these people, from which my doula and placenta encapsulation client base is formed:
1) Some of these moms and dads, birthers and partners, see the intense lack of support that exists for new parents within the nuclear family model. Not only do they see it and understand it's a problem, they act to ensure they aren't swallowed whole by this problem. This action looks different from family to family depending on the resources available to them, and many fit this bill and choose not to encapsulate their placentas-so I'm not saying one path leads to the same outcome all the time. Some pregnant families are privileged enough to have monetary means to soften the isolating blow of parenthood. They hire help at every turn possible, whether that be in the form of housekeepers, nannies, postpartum doulas, or even via the use of services like Amazon Fresh. Then there are families who do not have the money to create cocoons in the postpartum experience, but have in-person help from mothers, aunts, grandparents, church members, and/or friends.
2) Some expecting parents are intimately aware of the high cost of medical insurance and medical bills that they may/will experience when they choose to have a baby. Some have even spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to get pregnant to start, so this point becomes even more poignant. They know that they need to take every possible step to prevent lengthy hospital stays or the need for ongoing medical care. For some, this means "indulging" in self-care practices like chiropractic and massage therapy and counseling early on in pregnancy. For others, the research they've done has revealed that people choosing to work with doulas during labor and birth have lower negative outcomes and save money, so they spend the initial investment hoping to save in the long-term. The same is true for those who invest their hard-earned money in placenta encapsulation. I do not only work with people of means. I get hired by every type of family on the income strata. Every family wants to avoid paying high costs for medical care later on and many are willing to scrounge now to avoid that horrific possibility.
3) Mental health issues in the U.S. are on the rise. Often, people who choose to encapsulate their placentas for consumption are those who have learned that in postpartum people, a severe lack of funding, lack of public interest, and lack of understanding of postpartum mood disorders has led to a rise in tragic deaths and injuries to both womyn and the babies they love so much. Those aware of the increasing dangers of postpartum mood disorders are desperate to avoid, prevent, or cure their potential illnesses in advance-even if that means consuming something potentially icky or weird like their own placenta. This is doubly true (in my experience) for families who have already been affected by postpartum mood disorders in earlier pregnancies or previous birth/loss recovery periods. The want or NEED to prevent potentially unhealthy or catastrophic outcomes is biting.
4) Many are thinking long-term. New mothers and birthing people must constantly look toward the future; such is nature of parenthood. But more fastidiously, women and families are having to carefully plot out how much time they'll get off from work, how much they'll be paid while off for leave, and ultimately how much having a baby will cost the family unit. Mothers and parents know they must be their healthiest, most productive selves as quickly as possible so they try to find the quickest fixes to common postpartum recovery issues such as fatigue, hormonal roller coaster rides, and not producing enough milk for their babies. While some are downing a week's worth of caffeine each day just to get by, many who encapsulate their placentas report feeling pretty okay from the start, which is obviously enticing to those envisioning sleepless nights in their future. Word gets around and other folks want similar results.
5) This is a big one. Possibly the attribute shared by the highest number of placenta encapsulation clients I have worked with: the desire to be healthier. People everywhere are actively looking for ways to be physically well in their day to day lives. The number of gyms and vitamin stores open for business in Orange County alone is proof of this intention. Americans spend billions of dollars yearly within the health and wellness industry. Many adults having children are those who grew up in households that ate fast food multiple times a week, taking for granted all those fruit-by-the-foot and soda-having lunch packs in their childhoods.
Adults raising families today are increasingly aware of the benefits and risks associated with food choices, vitamin deficiencies, obesity, etc. Perhaps a client of mine has already been on a consciously healthful path for some time and is looking into natural ways to supplement their diets and lifestyles in the newborn period. They've been told over and over again how difficult having a baby and being a new parent can be. So they begin asking their friends and neighbors what worked for them. Or, maybe an expecting mom is experiencing anemia for the first time in her life and looks into iron-rich foods so she isn't relying solely on the pill she swallows daily. She comes upon an article online about how some families are consuming the blood-filled placenta and wonders if this could help her on the other side of birth. Parents and families are swiftly realizing that unnatural, created-in-a-lab, "food product" diets have consumed us for decades now. From this perspective, is it really difficult to understand the drive to find natural sources of health, wellness, and vitality? And what if the natural source is something that comes from within our own bodies and would otherwise be thrown into a dumpster if we chose to ignore it?
I suppose my ultimate point in this article series is just to remind people that nothing is black and white where pregnancy, birth, and placenta-eating are concerned. And I want to acknowledge that, despite what many may believe, every one of my placenta encapsulation clients are educated, thoughtful people who are working from a place of self-love, health preparedness, disease prevention, and/or a natural fear of exhaustion/fatigue/suffering in the newborn baby stage. All of these perspectives deserve validation and a checking of internal judgments on the part of providers and external parties who may not easily understand why a person would do a thing like consume their own organ. The reality is that, for many birthing folks, looking forward to the postpartum period knowing a potential lifeline exists in the form of some placenta capsules or a smoothie provides a sense of calm and confidence during an otherwise tumultuous and overwhelming period of life.
Amanda Cagle is the founder and owner of Your Birth Team. She is an active doula and educator in and around Orange County, CA. For more information on her encapsulation services or to schedule your support service, click here.