'˜The placenta really is a most beautiful organ'
Would you consume your own placenta?
Local mothers-to-be can now join with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, January Jones and Alicia Silverstone by doing just that after a Donegal woman became the county’s first placenta encapsulation specialist.
Mother-of-seven Caroline Doherty, from the Illies, outside Buncrana, said the reaction of people varies from the squeamish to complete fascination when she tells she them what she does.
Encapsulation involves creating capsules or pills from dehydrated placenta, the organ which connects mums to their unborn babies and nourishes and maintains them for nine months.
But, Caroline stresses that consuming placenta through various methods like encapsulation and smoothies and via topical measures such as balms and creams, is not just some passing celebrity fad or craze.
She said the practice offers numerous reported health benefits for new mothers as they recover after giving birth. Commonly, after birth, the placenta is expelled and is disposed of by hospital incineration.
Caroline, whose children range in age from 19 to two-years-old, first became interested in placenta encapsulation when she was pregnant with her youngest little girl.
She said: “I had experienced baby blues and depression with earlier pregnancies and I wanted to avoid that. I’d looked into placenta encapsulation, but soon found out that the nearest person who did it was in Newry or Dublin.
“Sadly, it was too far away and I wasn’t able to get it done. I was disappointed as I had heard about all the reported health benefits and it was something I really wanted to do.”
The reported health benefits of consuming placenta include higher energy levels, increased milk supply, the balancing of hormones, promotion of bonding, a better mood, clearer skin, faster healing and less hair loss. Caroline outlined how the placenta itself contains many nutrients and vitamins including oxytocin, known as the ‘love’ or bonding hormone, oestrogen, the human growth hormone, stem cells - the subject of much research - and cortisone, among many others.
She said it also contains endorphins, a natural mood enhancer, iron, vitamins such as vitamin B6, A, D, E, K and outlined how, during pregnancy and birth an expectant mother’s body is packed full of important birth and pregnancy hormones.
“When they then give birth, and when the placenta is expelled, there is a sudden drop in these hormones. Consuming the placenta is a healing way of putting it back into her system.”
Caroline decided to train in placenta encapsulation after her sister became pregnant last year. She too wanted to undertake the process but again, there was no-one local available.
Caroline said: “I thought it would be a good service for this area and I wanted to be able to bring it to local mothers.
“I started training with the Irish Placenta Association and a couple of my friends actually had their placentas in their freezer, so that got me started out.”
New mothers hoping to avail of the service take a container and a cool box with ice to the hospital they are due to give birth.
When the placenta has been examined by a midwife and deemed healthy, it is placed into the container. A placenta must be healthy and Caroline will be able to advise women if it cannot be used.
The placenta must then be refrigerated within six hours and after three days must be placed in the freezer. Caroline said she collects it within the three days, either from the mother in the hospital or by meeting her partner or representative to pick it up.
She then washes the placenta, puts it into a dehydrator for between 16-20 hours and then grinds it into the capsules.
While many people would balk at the idea of handling someone else’s placenta, it doesn’t faze Caroline, who describes it as a “lovely” experience.
She said: “The placenta really is a beautiful organ. It has helped grow a little baby for nine months; it nourished that baby and took away all the toxins. It’s just amazing and I wouldn’t be squeamish with it at all. I actually think they’re lovely.”
Women who get their placenta encapsulated take 1-3 “ordinary-sized” capsules per day and Caroline said many tell her they feel the benefits of it almost straight away.
Caroline also offers placenta smoothies, where “small piece” of placenta is mixed with ice and fruit and consumed by the mother. She also creates a tincture by leaving it in alcohol for six weeks. Caroline said this can be used for years and throughout the baby’s lifetime as it grows. She said it’s particularly good for girls to help regulate their hormones as they get older. She also creates placenta brew and balm, which she said is good for rashes, among other complaints and placenta and cord ‘prints’ which can be kept as keepsakes.
Scientific evidence on the practice and its benefits are still being collated and placenta encapsulation and ingestion has been spiking interest in recent years due to more reporting of it, among other factors.
It has been popularised in the mainstream by a number of high profile celebrities, who have spoken of their experience of it.
Caroline points out that most mammals consume their placenta after the birth and that encapsulation makes consumption “palatable and easy.”
She said: “ It is the only organ that is grown from and functions for two people - mum and baby.
Caroline launchedthe business officially at a Bump and Baby expo held in the at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny on August 20 and 21. It will take place in Derry in the coming months..
Caroline said a lot of mums are increasingly looking to go down the natural route and she’s looking forward to helping them.
She said: “I’m really happy to be able to bring this service to Derry and Donegal.
“A lot of people do want to go more natural and if it helps them get back on their feet quicker or feel that bit better I want to make sure local mothers can access it.
“Before this, they didn’t really have the option of getting their placenta encapsulated, but now they do.
“It’s something which is very popular down the country and if I can help any local mothers in any way then I’ll be delighted.”
Caroline has also recently trained as a birth doula, someone who offers supports though pregnancy and birth.