Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=148987
Story Retrieval Date: 12/11/2013 7:21:27 AM CST
Preserving the placenta and dehydrating it to make nutrient capsules is becoming a health-minded trend in the home birthing community.
Midwives and doulas are beginning to inform their clients of this dietary supplement to nourish the mother after she has given birth.
In a typical birthing situation, especially in a hospital, the doctor clamps and cuts the umbilical cord as soon as the baby takes its first breath. The placenta is soon discarded only to be incinerated by hospitals as medical waste.
Mothers can choose to take home their placenta, if a hospital allows it. Women and midwives who are following this new alternative after-birthing option often consider the placenta more than nutritious.
“We discard it like medical waste and it is such a travesty.” said encapsulation specialist Cassandra Gabel of Chicago. She said that in many cultures the placenta is held in high regard and considered sacred.
Placental encapsulation requires dehydrating and then grinding the placenta so that the remains can be put in capsules for a supplement, a process that yields an average of 110 capsules. Gabel is secretive about the exact process, but said it has spiritual aspects to it that have been handed down over the generations.
Gabel said she believes that the placenta holds nutrients and hormones that can be used to supplement the nutrition a mother has lost in giving birth, to help through menopause and even to aid in the stressful postpartum time.
“When your body has a reaction, mainly hormonal, those capsules can go to work for you and help to restore balance,” said Gabel.
Gabel learned how to do encapsulation from Jodi Selander, a teacher of the process who is known as "the placenta lady" by some in the alternative birthing community. Gabel, who lives in Las Vegas, approaches the process of encapsulation as a spiritual service and not a manufacturing procedure.
“It is a deep intense experience. Every placenta holds a different energy,” Gabel said.
Some have validated this process by stating the fact that animals in the wild eat their own placentas. Selander, owner of the placentabenefits.info Web site, is currently involved with an ongoing placenta study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Described as a “pioneer in encapsulation” by Gabel, she has taught several people how to perform this technique rooted in traditional Chinese medicine.
The process raises some medical concerns, however.
Dr. Mara Dinsmoor, a high risk obstetrician in Evanston, said she worries about the bacteria that may grow in the placenta when it is taken home. But she said the placenta is “probably very much like liver” and that “a lot of it is blood so there is a lot of iron in it.”
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the placenta. We do know that it has protein" and there is a high content of B6 and B12, said Selander.
While, hospitals all over America discard and incinerate the placenta, hospitals in other countries may offer them to cosmetic companies to use as an essential ingredient in products. Many cosmetic companies in America use placentas, although from animals. They are advertised as containing special nutrients in a concentrated form that will enhance your hair or skin.
“It is just like taking a vitamin, but those are manufactured in a warehouse somewhere. This is manufactured right in here, perfectly designed, so…it is like gold,” said Gabel in a slight tone of jest.
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