There is something I am afraid to tell my clients, an answer to a question often asked that makes me want to hide.
"Does eating my placenta prevent Postpartum Depression"?
Internally I gasp and externally I bumble. I feel as if I am supposed to pull a coin from behind your ear and we all laugh wholesomely and skip off into the daisies.
I hate this question because I ingested my placenta after all three of my births and I experienced postpartum anxiety and depression after all three births.
There is little research into this question, or any other benefits or risks of placentaphagy. There are no scientific studies to claim placenta encapsulation as a remedy for postpartum mood disorders. However, many mothers self-report that they felt less depression and more positive energy when they ingested their placenta capsules. Placenta is used as hormonal therapy in other cultures during menopause, so conclusions are drawn that it will help with the extreme hormonal changes after birth.
A recent study of women self-reporting their experiences with placentaphagy tells us this:
"When asked to describe any positive effects experienced, the majority of women in the sample claimed that they experienced improved mood as a result of consuming their placenta postpartum (40%). The second most frequently given response to this question was increased energy/decreased fatigue (26%)."
Selander, J. April 2013
What a Postpartum Placenta Specialist does offer:
Alongside encapsulating your placenta for you, you have the gift of a postpartum professional in your home in those incredibly transitory days. A PPS is often a Postpartum Doula too, skilled at listening and attuning to your needs. She has experienced this transition herself, and stood by many women in this sacred time. A PPS can help you identify if what you are feeling is baby blues, shock from your birth experience, or a postpartum mood disorder.
Also, she is great with tidying the kitchen or switching a load of laundry. A PPS can answer your questions about sleep, help you find a comfortable nursing position, understand bottle feeding, check out your swaddle, or asses your latch.
It is an honor to be in someone's home in this most precious of times. A PPS has no motives other than to serve and honor you. Her ultimate goal is for you to feel supported. At the crux of one of the grandest life transitions we experience and a time of too many questions all at once ("When can we come meet the baby?" "How is nursing?" "Are you introducing a bottle?" "How much does she weigh?" "Is he a good sleeper?"), it is a precious gift to have someone there purely to support you. She is a calm, confident presence in your home. A PPS believes in you.
As for what I believe:
I tend to believe somethings aren't meant to be easy. Next to being born and dying, I believe that giving birth, however we give birth, is one of the greatest transitions we will ever experience. Our body, our hormones, our roles, our relationships and our self-identity are all in flux. An experience so vast does invoke only happy feelings.
Still, I would say my personal anecdotal evidence is inconclusive. There is no way for me to know if I would have had more or less postpartum anxiety and depression with or without my placenta capsules. While it didn’t stop me from the extreme blues and racing thoughts it did feel like something. My placenta was nourishing and bolstering to me at a time where I couldn't find my footing. Maybe it was homeopathic, maybe it was a placebo or maybe it was the real hormones transmitted to me through the placenta capsules that gave me this boost. I had energy and abundant milk, sometimes too much of both! If I have another child, I will ingest my placenta again.