Placenta Encapsulation

My parents came to visit last weekend. It was lovely. I had a really good time, I got to show them all of my favorite parts of town and find some new favorites. We talked and ate and had some ice cream and ate and took a little walk and ate. Really, it was a good good time. Except that it was punctuated with the statement “Bye Mom and Dad! I’ll see you again in an hour or two, right after I go and cook this lady’s placenta!” Which is after all a very strange thing to say to your parents.

Placenta encapsulation is a magical, mystical art that is only practiced on the 3rd full moon of the month in a field of dewy grass with a bubbling cauldron. You know, real witch stuff (not like me – I’m just your normal everyday Pagan and a wannabe witch).  Except that it’s not at all. It’s incredibly ordinary and really a good deal of fun (except for the frequent changing of the gloves). It goes something like this:

Hello! My name is k. emvee and I’m here today to encapsulate your placenta. No no, you don’t have you to get up. Your new baby is lovely, by the way. Very sweet. I’ll just clear myself a nice little spot in your kitchen. Do you mind if I turn on the fan? And open the back door? Placenta can have a very strong smell. Your placenta’s in the fridge, right? Yes, I’ll be able to find it just fine. Yes, I know what it looks like.

Pull out the steamer pot and put in the magic ingredients (water, lemon, ginger, and chili pepper). Wash the blood off of the placenta. Cut away the cord and the membranes. Quarter the placenta and then steam it until it’s done. Be very careful not to make blood splatters anywhere. Quickly clean up any that happen accidentally. Change your gloves a bajillion times to make sure you aren’t touching essence of placenta to anything that it shouldn’t touch. Make awkward small talk with the new parents, or the new grandparents, or the new 4 year-old big sister. Or don’t.

Remove said placenta from the steamer. Slice it into really thin slices. No, thinner than that even! Put it in a bag to take home with you. Clean everything in sight. Twice. Tell the parents their baby really is truly adorable, and leave. Go home and put the placenta slices in a dehydrator and wait. And wait and wait and wait.

Run to the store and buy size 00 or 000 empty capsules. It has to be a crunchy natural foods store or you might not find it. Plan on using more than 100 capsules for the placenta.

Do this next part outside if at all humanly possible. When it’s dry, take out the placenta slices and grind them up in a coffee grinder. Well, since you only use it for placenta maybe we’ll call it a placenta grinder (Can’t you see it now at a fancy cooking store? “Excuse me sir, but do you sell placenta grinders?”). So grind the placenta up in the placenta grinder until it’s really itty bitty. Open up the cap carefully and do not inhale the placenta (it goes up in a cloud like cinnamon or flour does!). Pack into tiny capsules. If you are lucky, you have one of those fancy Cap M Quick machines. If you’re really lucky you have the tamper accessory. Put the placenta in the pills. Wash rinse, and repeat. This part takes a long time and if you’re not careful, you’ll start constructing elaborate fantasies about how your neighbors must think you’re packing up some pretty interesting illicit drugs in the back yard. Or not. That last part depends on how creative your imagination is.

Deliver said placenta pills to the rightful owner! Smile big. Feel accomplished, you just did a whole lot of work! Life is good. Now return to your regularly scheduled program and make sure to get to brunch with your parents on time!

9 responses to “Placenta Encapsulation

  1. Wow, thanks for explaining the process. I’m really interested in placental encapsulation, but this sounds like a lot of work and it sounds like it requires more equipment than I can afford…

    I wish more people didn’t think this was gross, though.

    Love your blog!

    • Welcome Student Doula. Glad you like my blog! There’s actually not that much equipment that you really need. You can start looking at garage sales and on craigslist for some of the items too – like the dehydrator or the Cap M Quick set. That’s what my teacher did anyway. I was borrowing her equipment but one day would like to have my own.

      Here’s the bare essentials of what you need: a metal steamer pot with lid and basket, a metal spatula (no plastic parts so you can sterilize it), a knife, a cutting board, gloves, and the capsules. These things must be dedicated solely to placenta encapsulation – no using the same knife to cut up the veggies for your stir fry at night, ick. From here you can begin to slowly acquire other equipment as you can afford it and as you find it for good prices. You don’t even need a dehydrator – you can do the dehydration in your oven. It just takes more constant baby-sitting of the oven to ensure that the placenta stays at the right low low temperature. And you can fill the capsules by hand, too. It just takes longer.

      And remember that you can charge a bit more on top of your doula fee for this. $50-100 is common where I live. That can help you pay for equipment as well as give you a bit of extra to allow you to continue this doula journey.

  2. I’m an assistant to a home birth midwife and I had my first placenta cooking experience recently. I am pretty granola crunchy, but this was a stretch for me. I was pleased that it was not that big of a deal, really. I did (while cleaning up the birth area) forget the steaming placenta on the stove and accidentally allowed it to splatter (midwife saw and cleaned it up) but overall it went pretty well. We put garlic in. I love feeling myself stretch. Thanks for posting this, I picked up a few tricks for next time.

    • I’m so glad you had a good time with your first placenta encapsulation! And I completely hear you about how cooking placenta can seem like a stretch at first – especially for this vegetarian! I haven’t cooked meat in … oh … nearly a decade? (Now, I haven’t been a vegetarian for that long, but that’s a different story.) And that’s exactly what encapsulating placenta entails. I’m so glad you liked it and I’m so glad you learned something from my post!

  3. I am a Doula in Regina, Canada. I found your blog through the Radical Doula blog and am so in LOVE with your writing. I am also a midwifery student, through the University of British Columbia. I am doing my first year by distance until i enter the “scrum” in the fall for 3 yrs of apprenticeship. I am (as far as i know) the only queer doula in my city, which is a bit lonely at times, So I am really enjoying your birth attendant journey and perspectives! Birth is so full of potential points of activism and it is great to hear another common voice in the din!

    I also encapsulate Placentas as part of my doula services. They are all so different and each tells a story of the time mom and babe are connected. It’s wonderful to be a part of honouring that! I do the entire encapsulation in the family’s home,so the only equipment i bring is the dehydrator and the encapsulator with capsules (and my fancy smancy tamp-er!:) ). The only difference when I encapsulate a placenta is that I do not cook it first (heat denatures the active hormones.) After cutting away the cord and membranes, I place the placenta in a blender with a bit of water and blend until it is very smooth. I then pour the placenta “smoothy” onto parchment paper lined trays in my dehydrator. after about 8hrs it is like crispy placenta roll-ups. I crack up these sheets into the blender again, and grind until fine and the put the powder into capsules. Your comment on being careful not to breath in powdered placenta made me laugh! I have SO done that! One of the other things that i do is take the cord and spiral it onto a piece of parchment and dry it as well. They make beautiful pinwheels.

    Thanks again so much for your blog!


    • I’m so glad you found and enjoy my blog, Erin! And thanks for the alternative methods of placenta encapsulation. I also have classmates who put the placenta straight into the dehydrator, sans cooking or blending. There are lots of different ways to do it! What a great tip about drying the spiraled umbilical cord!!

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