Birth services owner converts mothers’ placentas to pill form
People’s first reaction when local birth services provider Laurel Ripple Carpenter tells them about placenta encapsulation is often “ick.”
The practice involves steaming and dehydrating a mother’s placenta, the organ that connects a fetus to the uterine wall, and capturing portions of the placenta in capsules. The process leaves women with 100 to 200 capsules that resemble vitamins and either have no taste or are coated with a berry or bubble gum flavor.
Taking a pill can make the consumption process more palatable to some moms than other placenta ingestion methods, including mixing a raw placenta into a smoothie or cooking with a placenta, according to Ripple Carpenter, who opened Two Rivers Birth Services in 2010 and began encapsulating placentas after a doula client requested the service in 2007.
“Capsules make it a more accessible method” than raw or cooked options, she said. “I speak to groups pretty regularly and it’s interesting to gauge their reaction. Once they get over the initial ‘ick’ factor, it makes sense to them.”
Human placenta consumption has been popular for years in some counties, including China, Vietnam, Morocco and the Czech Republic, and it’s common practice among many animal species. Purported nutritional benefits for new moms who consume a placenta include increased milk production and higher energy levels. Ripple Carpenter said hormones in the placenta may also help wean new mothers off pregnancy hormones so they don’t experience an emotional crash.
Scientific research about eating placentas is patchy, but the trend has gotten a boost from a recent celebrity endorsement by “Mad Men” actress January Jones and enhanced media coverage. The University of Nevada-Las Vegas is studying pros and cons of placenta consumption, and a study by University of Buffalo and Buffalo State College researchers published this year found health benefits to placenta consumption in non-human subjects.
Ripple Carpenter said she hopes research will unveil which methods are best and if steaming the placenta reduces nutrient levels. For now, she goes on the experience of her clients, including Nicole Sizemore of Grand Junction. Sizemore did not take placenta capsules after she had her daughter, who is now 4 1/2 years old. She had Ripple Carpenter encapsulate her placenta after the birth of her now-20-month-old son after a friend recommended the process and she and her husband researched the idea.
“I tell my friends everyone’s a little bit apprehensive about placenta stuff but it might be because they’re not aware of the benefits,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore said she didn’t have any symptoms of “baby blues” after her first child was born but wanted to take the pills to hedge the stress of raising a new baby with a toddler around. She took the pills for several months, “until things calmed down at the house.”
“I’m not sure if it was psychological, but whenever I took it, it made me feel a little more balanced,” she said. “If I stopped taking it, it seemed a little more overwhelming.”
Sizemore said she didn’t watch the encapsulation process, which Ripple Carpenter performs over the course of a day or two in a new mom’s kitchen. Ripple Carpenter said some families aren’t even home when she performs the encapsulation, while others have the whole family watch. She spent one day answering questions about the process as a 6-year-old boy watched her work.
She leaves parents with a stack of pills as well as a dried umbilical cord keepsake in the shape of a heart and an imprint of the placenta. She recommends moms take the pills as frequently as their bodies need them; some moms need more pills, some need fewer doses. Any leftovers can be stored in a freezer and used during other stressful times, including periods and menopause.
The encapsulation process costs $150 for clients in Mesa County. Ripple Carpenter also travels as far east as Vail, as far north as Rifle and Glenwood Springs, as far south as Durango and as far west as Moab, Utah, for work and adds a travel expense fee on top of her usual charges for out-of-county clients.
Ripple Carpenter has scheduled a placenta information session at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Two Rivers Birth Services Office, 3096 Interstate 70 Business Loop. More information is available at tworiversbirthservices.com.