by Anne Ferguson
Placenta Encapsulation has grown a lot in popularity in the last few years. Six years ago when I gave birth to my second son it was an idea I heard about from my home birth midwives, but it wasn't a widely offered professional service. Now I estimate there are over 50 providers of this service in the Twin Cities alone!
Over the 4.5 years that I've been providing this service professionally, I've heard a lot of scary stories about the ways people are handling this process. I've compiled this list of tips for encapsulators to try to educate everyone a bit more on how to do this process safely.
Over the years I've tweaked and updated my own process as I've learned more and my certification with APPA (www.placentaassociation.com) earlier this year really reinforced that my procedures were sound and that this is a topic that deserves attention because this is a human organ we are talking about!
Here are my tips!
– Sanitizing all equipment is critical. Bleach is the best thing to use. Equipment should be soaked in a 10% bleach solution for 10 minutes. That means, if your sink holds 50 cups of liquid, you should put 45 cups of water in with 5 cups of bleach. 5 cups!!
– There really are no natural products that can be used as a substitute for bleach. Any other chemicals used for this purpose need to be on this approved list. They need to be effective against all blood borne pathogens, hep B, C, HIV, etc. There are wipes (like they use in hospitals) that can be used for wiping counters before and after the process.
– Counter space should be covered with a chux pad.
– Encapsulators need to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE). That means gloves, goggles/glasses, an apron, something to cover their arms, and a mask. This protects not only the encapsulator but also the client. Hair should be tied back, rings/jewelry removed, food, drink, children and pets kept away from the work space, etc. (Side note: When you know better you do better. I wasn't wearing a mask in this news story from four years ago and my forearms were exposed!)
– Raw encapsulation has grown in popularity but it is not safe from a food safety perspective to dehydrate at 118 degrees (the temperature above which something is no longer considered raw.) In my practice we do “raw start method” and will encapsulate without steaming the placenta first, but we dehydrate at 160 degrees.
– Bleach solutions deactivate over time. If someone is making a spray bottle of 10% bleach solution for spraying down counters or sinks, that bleach solution is only good for 24 hours.
– Hot water deactivates bleach. Bleach solutions should be made with cool water. After the bleach soak is done, you can rinse the equipment with hot water to deactivate the bleach then and get the equipment ready for the next client.
– The placenta must be 100% dry before it is ground into a powder. That means the pieces snap easily and have NO bend to them. If someone were to grind up pieces before they were fully dry that could easily lead to mold growing in the capsules over time. I dehydrate the traditional method for about 10-12 hours and raw start for up to 24 hours. To this end, it’s important to have a very sharp knife to slice pieces very thinly which allows them to dry properly.
– Placentas should be put on ice within 1-2 hours of the birth, but no longer than 4 hours. If a placenta is not kept cold until it is going to be worked on, it is not safe and cannot be encapsulated. A good cooler with a ton of ice can work just fine for the hours it will take for your specialist to arrive. Placentas are considered OK for up to 4 days after the birth, if kept in a fridge. However if someone knows they won’t be encapsulating right away, it might be best to put the placenta in the freezer. This adds an extra step of thawing though (in the fridge) which takes at least 24 hours.
– Moms benefit the most from having their capsules back to them as soon as possible, ideally within 48 hours of the birth. This allows them to start taking them before the big hormonal shift that happens around days 2-5. If an encapsulator is not going to be able to process the placenta in a timely fashion the responsible thing to do would be to find another person to provide this service. There are tons of people who are happy to help! Unfortunately I have heard dozens of stories of capsules not being delivered until 4, 5 or even more days at the birth. This is just not acceptable to me.
– Placenta tinctures should be made with 150 proof alcohol- Everclear works well.
If you are a provider of placenta encapsulation services, I hope this list helps you keep this practice safe for yourself and your clients. If you are someone thinking about this service, I hope you learned a lot about how serious this work should be taken. Stay tuned for my next post... "Is Placenta Encapsulation Safe? Tips for Choosing Your Provider."