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At your home? Or in your placenta encapsulator’s “workspace”? It’s up to you.

By Christine Frackelton

If you’re investigating your options for having your placenta encapsulated after birth, you are more than likely noticing that different encapsulators offer different choices for the location of your encapsulation. This blog post will address the choice you get to make regarding this location for your placenta encapsulation.

Placenta encapsulators come from many walks of life — chinese medicine practitioners (doctors of oriental medicine and acupuncturists), midwives, herbalists, and doulas. I can not speak for other occupations, but as a trained, professional birth and postpartum doula, I will share how I perceive the doula industry affecting choices in placenta encapsulation.

Doulas are hired to support expectant or new parents as they navigate the challenges and transitions in labor and postpartum. Some work exclusively at births, others work exclusively as postpartum doulas, and some, like myself, serve parents for birth as well as postpartum. Regardless, they are beside mothers and fathers during vulnerable times, while the parents must face what can be paralyzing decisions about everything from pain medications and circumcision to infant sleeping and feeding concerns. Generally — though not always — a doula provides his or her support unconditionally, even when parents make choices the doula wouldn’t make, such as, perhaps, electing a potentially unnecessary cesarean or choosing to formula feed despite there being a proper latch and ample milk supply.  The point is, each parent is making the best decision they can for their family’s specific needs, and their wishes should be respected and supported as they grow in this sacred time.

I suspect that the typical doula perspective of honoring choice is what leads many placenta encapsulators to pride themselves in offering placenta encapsulation at either the client’s home or the encapsulator’s “workspace” (read this as the encapsulator’s home, unless you are proven otherwise).  It seems like a thoughtful idea.

However, I’ve noticed the idea doesn’t hold up when you investigate it more closely.  Here are the reasons why:

  • An encapsulator may try to sell you on the idea of having the process take place at their “workspace” because the placenta “smells” while it is being cooked.  If she/he proposes it will smell in your home, do you think it will not smell in her/his own home?  Why is the encapsulator so motivated for it to not take place in your own home?  (I’ll post the answer later).  The truth is, there will be a scent during the steaming alone, which usually takes 10 minutes or less.  We always turn your vent on high during that part of the process.  The scent will resemble that of liver or other organ meat being cooked, plus there will be the amazingly beautiful scent of fresh lemongrass and ginger wafting through the air — one of my favorite parts of this job! — because (at least the way I’ve been trained to process the placenta) those traditional herbs are added to the steaming pot also.  “Smell” has never been such an ordeal that it has turned one potential client I’ve spoken with away from my service, and I have yet to receive any complaints about it during the process.  Of course, you could always be prepared with a scented candle, if you choose.
  • An encapsulator may try to sell you on the idea of having the process take place at their “workspace” because he or she is convinced that his/her kitchen is impeccably clean and therefore he/she trusts the work that comes out of it.  If an encapsulator makes this claim, I certainly hope she/he is being 100% honest with you.  There are two problems with this, even if the encapsulator is honest.  The first is the implication that your home is not good enough.  However, a professional encapsulator will clean and sanitize your own kitchen prior to and after each day’s work.  It really doesn’t matter what your kitchen looks like when I arrive for my job; it will be OSHA-safe during my work and when I am finished as well.  The other problem is, if your placenta is being processed in someone else’s “workspace,” how are you really going to know that it is clean and sanitary?  What will give you peace of mind, and no doubt, that the encapsulator’s workspace is indeed safe?  Are you going to be at the encapsulator’s home, watching the process or at least seeing the kitchen before and after the process with your own eyes?  Placenta encapsulation is an unregulated industry in the United States.  Therefore, there are no inspectors who periodically evaluate the “workspaces” of the encapsulators.  Did you know that routine restaurant and commercial kitchen inspections are public record, and you are entitled to know the grade that these businesses have received either by requesting to see it from an employee or by looking it up easily online (here)?  Placenta encapsulators are, for now, exempt from these requirements.  It is important to consider what risk you may be taking by trusting your placenta to an encapsulator who processes it in a location you aren’t seeing.
  • If your encapsulator is processing your placenta at their “workspace,” in what ways are you guaranteed, without a doubt, that you will only receive your placenta in the final product?  Ideally, an encapsulator who works in their own home sets strict standards to allow only one client’s placenta in her home at a time, preventing potential mix-ups and contamination.  Unfortunately, if an encapsulator makes this claim, and then has 2 women give birth at the same time, she or he is in a conundrum.  Either one placenta takes priority over the other, and the mom that has to wait will more than likely be a dissatisfied customer, or, consider this… who is going to really find out if the encapsulator just accepts and processes both placentas at the same time?  Really?  Unfortunately, I wish I was just making this stuff up.  But it happens, even locally.   (Insert disgust face)

So why are encapsulators promoting placenta encapsulation in their own “workspaces”, even using social peer pressure / coercion techniques such as claiming that (apparently) none of their customers want the placenta processed at home?

The answer is this: convenience.  It is more convenient for an encapsulator to work at his or her own home.  Think about it.

  • Encapsulators should clean their own kitchen anyway, right (hopefully)?  Why not get paid to clean the kitchen?!
  • Encapsulation at the client’s home requires setting up a babysitter or other arrangements for the encapsulator’s children.
  • If the encapsulator has the clients drop off their placentas, he or she never has to get in the car for work!
  • Multitasking.  While waiting for supplies to sanitize and the placenta to steam, an encapsulator could be doing any number of things around his or her own home.  When I am in these somewhat brief waiting times, I am usually talking with my clients and their family members about the birth, the baby, feeding issues, or the postpartum experience in general.  Or at the very least, I work on cleaning my clients’ home in a little more detail.

I personally don’t buy the “reasons” for having your placenta processed at an encapsulator’s home, and because your satisfaction and safety are my top priorities, I refuse to offer anything other than the service that gives you the greatest value and peace of mind.  Does that cost me some convenience?  Yes, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

At the end of the day, the placenta encapsulation market is (today) operating like a free market.  You have total control and no governmental red tape over how you choose to have your placenta processed.  You can choose any encapsulator you “click” with.  So, what is your preference?  Will it take place at your home?  Or at the encapsulator’s home?

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