Actually, It’s About Ethics In Placenta Encapsulation

Controversy skittered through my world recently, when some birth work organizations started using statements and advertising that implied theirs was the One Right And True Way to do placenta encapsulation- and everyone else was dangerous and unsafe.

A quick lesson- placenta encapsulation is the act of taking the human placenta, and preparing it so that it can be put into gelatin capsules and taken postnatally like a vitamin. It is, (According to the proponents, because it hasn’t had enough money thrown at it to warrant hard science studies. However, the circumstantial evidence supports the practice, and early studies are starting to happen.) a way to get the nutrient benefit of the placenta, without needing to eat it like an organ meat- which seriously hits most people’s squick factor.

Anyhow, encapsulation is a growing practice, with the attendant range of provider skill level that happens when a practice is ‘new’. Everyone in the birth community knows this, and discussions about ensuring health, safety, proper procedure and such happen regularly. Where I am, people have stepped up to make sure that birth workers who want to offer encapsulation can learn how to do so in a way that would make anyone with OSHA proud.

So when these new peeps came along, using words like “transparency” and “clear boundaries” to describe their service, with other language that implied that using Other Services might do things like give you someone else’s dried up placenta, or something that isn’t really placenta…people generally reacted with a resounding “Buh?”

It really is one thing to say “We offer placenta encapsulation (or any other birth service!), and here’s the standard of practice we use in that service”, and another thing entirely to say “If you don’t use our service, here’s all the Horrible Things that might happen to you!!”

That is a strong example of fear-based language, so much like what we ‘birth junkies’ rail at coming out of some obstetric staff: “Well, you could give birth standing up, but I won’t be held responsible if something goes wrong!” “You don’t want something to happen to the baby, do you?!?”

It also deliberately tries to throw doubt on the practices and integrity of anyone doing a birth service that didn’t go through them- and that’s just a smarmy business practice, especially since there’s never been any indication of unsafe, unethical or shady actions by placenta encapsulators, no hint that people are hoarding or mass processing placentas, no sign of being given fake placenta pills.

It is mud flinging, pure and simple, and that’s sad to see happening in the birth world. Supporting physiologic birth is about uplifting the community, not ‘throwing shade’ at people who took a different route than you. This isn’t political campaigning, we don’t need to act like it.

Given all this, if you decide you want your placenta encapsulated, how do you do about finding the right person?

  • Research who’s in your area, look for testimonials
  • Ask other women who they’ve used
  • Ask about procedure- How do they get the placenta from your birth place (some birth places have rules about this!)? Where do they prepare it? What’s the ‘turn around time’? How do they follow safe handling practices?
  • Decide what you want out of the service
  • Hire someone!

Remember, there’s a big difference between “Use our service, we do things this way, and here’s why we think that is good!” and “Use our service, because the other guys are doing it wrong!”