WARNING: graphic content
Almond milk, frozen fruit, matcha powder, ground flax seeds – and placenta.
Virginia Maddock says these are five common ingredients for her ”new mother smoothie”.
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Sydney’s ‘Placenta Specialist’ is one of several Certified Afterbirth Consultants who, at the request of the mother, transform the placenta into edible items or keepsakes.
From artwork and dreamcatchers to pills, infused vodka, smoothies and even jerky, Virginia says there are many benefits to reusing or ingesting her placenta.
“Some moms register a lot more energy [from consuming the placenta]almost as if they had an espresso coffee,” says Virginia 7Life.
“It can also help improve your mood and ward off postpartum blues and balance hormones.”
The mother-of-two, who is a trained nutritionist, was introduced to the idea of ’placental encapsulation’ after ingesting her own ‘placental pills’.
After her second child was delivered at home, her placenta was collected by her midwife and made into ‘pills’.
Virginia had braced herself for exhaustion, caring for a newborn baby and a toddler.
But she felt just the opposite – and attributes her positive experience to drinking her placenta.
Recounting her increased energy, Virginia wanted to share this experience with other new moms.
So she trained in placenta encapsulation, taking courses in food safety and blood-borne pathogens.
Now recognized by a body called Placenta Services Australia, Virginia offers a variety of services, its most popular being “gross encapsulation of the placenta”.
After her client gives birth, Virginia will remove the fetal organ and take it home.
It first drains the blood and removes any excess.
She then gently presses the organ and umbilical cord onto a piece of paper, creating an indentation described as a “placental tree”.
Then she separates the cord from the placenta and, at the client’s request, forms a shape, such as “a heart, a spiral or even the first letter of the baby’s name”.
The cord is then placed in a dehydrator.
The placenta is cut into pieces and placed along the cord to dry.
After 20 hours, the dehydrated organ is then placed in a blender and the resulting powder is poured into approximately 100-200 capsules ready for the mother.
Another style of placenta encapsulation involves steaming the organ in fresh ginger and lemon before the dehydration process.
Virginia says when reality TV star Kim Kardashian promoted the benefits she got from taking placental pills after giving birth to her second child, Saint, her services skyrocketed.
“I definitely saw a huge boost in business after that,” she says.
cream, dreamcatcher, tincture
Virginia also offers souvenir items like turning the umbilical cord into a dream catcher.
She may also take a small amount of a woman’s placenta and place it in a large bottle of alcohol (tincture), thus extending the longevity of drinking.
She is also equipped to make creams, smoothies and even had a special request from a new dad – “placenta jerky”.
“A dad actually asked me to make a piece of jerky with placenta,” she says.
“He said he washed it down with a beer afterwards.”
Although Virginia’s services are varied, she has yet to cook or bake a placenta for a client.
From placenta lasagna (“plasagna”), placenta sausage rolls or even a placenta steak, Virginia was featured on the podcast Zero Waste Baby where they explore these possibilities.
Transforming over 400 placentas for her clients, Virginia is aware of some of the stigma surrounding the consumption of the organ.
But she says she sticks to strict Australian food safety standards to ensure the best product.
The medical expert speaks
Medical experts say that consumptive placenta has happened over time, but it’s not without risk.
“Women have ingested the placenta in various forms for centuries,” says Dr Sarah Tedjasukmana from Sydney Perinatal Doctors.
“Claimed benefits include physical benefits, such as replenishing iron levels, and psychological benefits, such as reduced risk of postnatal depression.
“My advice would be not to risk it.“
“Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence of benefit. Conversely, there is evidence of risk.
“The encapsulation process is unregulated and mothers run the risk of bacterial or viral infection, as well as problems such as too much hormone concentration in the placental tissue.
“These can also cause problems for the baby if they are breastfed.
“My advice would be not to take any risks.”
Virginia provides holistic health, doula and placenta services at Natural Beginning.
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