Our articles on PLACENTAS
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New Zealanders may not be ready to try placenta injections and pig placenta smoothies but placentophagy is rapidly finding favour. Veronica Schmidt catches up on the trend.
Placentophagy is now so widely discussed that Birthcare, a major provider of maternity services in Auckland and Huntly, can no longer run an antenatal class without addressing the practice.
“It’s not that I’m up there recommending it,” says Barbara Taunton-Clark, Birthcare’s manager of childbirth education services. “It’s that every time we talk about the placenta it’s brought up by someone.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a mainstream thing but it’s definitely being talked about.”
When Dunedin mother Emily Sterk, 34, gave birth to her son at the beginning of 2011 she had never heard of the practice. She froze her placenta so she could bury it later but within a year she heard talk of placentophagy and removed the afterbirth from the freezer and had it encapsulated.
The change in her milk supply, she says, was instant. Naturopathy student Sian Hannagan, who processed Sterk’s placenta, learned how to encapsulate 18 months ago after realising demand for the service was growing but that Dunedin women were struggling to find local providers and were having to courier their placentas to encapsulators in other parts of the country.
“I don’t view it as a business and I don’t promote it,” says the mother of two, who offers the service on a koha basis. “I do it for women who want it because I feel they deserve it.
“It’s about people having the right to choose what they want to do with their own placenta.”
Why are Kiwi women so willing to experiment with an unproven practice? Jo Jackson of Timaru business Baby Tree Placenta Services, which offers everything from afterbirth prints to placenta chocolates, drops and capsules, says the growth in demand is largely down to word of mouth.
“I’ve noticed a big increase in people lately,” she says. “I can do up to three a week now and there’s a lot of good feedback. Someone will have it done and then tell someone else.”
Back in Auckland, Wendy Lee suspects there is more to the spike in interest. She wonders if New Zealand’s large Chinese population, accustomed to the use of placenta as medicine, has influenced demand but she also speculates that the growing trend towards natural health remedies is a factor.
“I think it’s the natural aspect. People are saying ‘I don’t want to take medication for mood swings or antidepressants for post-natal depression’. For them this is an option. They want natural solutions.”
The process includes cleaning and steaming the placenta, before drying it in a dehydrator and then grinding it into a fine powder.
An average sized placenta will render around 150 capsules.
Lee says the benefits can include boosting energy levels and breast milk production, replacing iron, preventing post-natal depression and stabilising hormone levels.
Boyle says her placenta was collected immediately after her birth and the pills returned to her in hospital a few days later.
“I started taking them straight away. My energy levels are what blew me away. I had no dips or anything compared to after having my other two. I was up on my feet as if nothing had happened.”
The pills have no smell or taste and are just like taking vitamins, she says.
“It’s not gross at all. It is only because we’ve all been programmed to think it is. I think it’s genius, it makes so much sense.”
” I have been encapsulating placentas since June of 2001, when one of my patients asked me to make pills after her first baby. Since then, I have helped many, many women recover fully from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth with the help of nature’s own miracle – placenta pills. Whether you think of yourself as an Earth Mama or are more conventional, placenta pills can help you in your post partum recovery. The pills are palatable, clean, safe and extremely effective”