People considering placenta encapsulation have long gotten the side eye from skeptical friends, family and medical practitioners. It’s a practice with lots of good anecdotal evidence and not a lot of clinical support.  People have always wanted to know: is placenta encapsulation safe?

But recently the fear and rumours around the safety of placenta encapsulation have reached a new level.

“My midwife told me two babies died.”

“I’m worried I’ll test positive for GBS.”

“How do I know it’s safe?”

Whenever we at Hamilton Family Doulas are asked this question we look at two things: addressing the rumours and outlining our safety and processing protocols.

First: those rumours of sick and dying babies

The CDC recently released a case study about a baby who had a persistent GBS related infection. During the medical team’s explorations and testing the mother was found to have no GBS present in her body or breastmilk. She happened to be taking placenta capsules, though, and the capsules tested positive for GBS. It is not known whether the mother received antibiotics in labour as is the protocol in Canada.

What is known is that after birth the baby was diagnosed with early onset GBS related infection. The baby was treated for the infection with antibiotics. They believed the infection was resolved but the baby presented with the same infection at a later date. It is entirely possible that the first time this baby was treated for the GBS related infection it was not completely eradicated and that after a short time the infection grew making the baby gravely ill a second time.

Noone, not even the CDC, knows if and how the GBS that was present in the capsules would have transferred from the pills to the baby and caused reinfection.  Remember, the mother herself tested negative for GBS.

Second: the encapsulation methods, theirs and ours

This is absolutely concerning. In the case described by the CDC the information provided suggests the encapsulator prepared the placenta using the raw encapsulation method. While the CDC case study did not include the encapsulation processes used, our training and certification made us familiar with raw encapsulation methods.

The raw method involves taking a placenta that is drained and rinsed in water, slicing it while raw, placing it in a dehydrator and then dehydrating at around 120F for 18 to 24 hours.  Some raw practitioners add a step of using a high heat of 160F for 10-20 minutes initially before reducing to around 120F for the remainder of the dehydration time.

Food handling guidelines tell us that a temperature range of 40F to 140F is the danger zone in which conditions are ideal to promote bacterial growth.

We use the Traditional Chinese Medicine method of encapsulation. It has the additional step of steaming the placenta prior to dehydration.

When we come into your home, we steam the placenta for 10+ minutes until the placenta reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees. This is the recommended heat needed to destroy strep bacteria.  Further, we dehydrate the placenta for 24 hours at 160 degrees. Again, this is sufficient to destroy bacteria. The two steps in combination ensure the bacteria is destroyed because the ideal temperature is sustained for a much longer time.

You will observe, when we process your placenta in your home, that we cover our eyes, mouths, noses, hair and that we wear gloves and aprons through the entire process. We want to make sure there is no chance for us to accidentally contaminate your capsules.

Your safety and the safety of your entire family is of the utmost importance to us. This is why we practice the way we do. Hamilton Family Doulas maintains the highest possible safety standards in our industry. Our company is transparent about those standards and you are able to watch the entire process to keep us honest.

We believe that with these protocols the chance of there being GBS present in the capsules after processing is zero.

If you are considering encapsulating your placenta, consider hiring a company like Hamilton Family Doulas who publish their safety standards and practice in the safest, most transparent manner possible.  You deserve to know exactly what is happening to your placenta at all times.