Things you should ask your placenta encapsulator.
In the internet world of all things birth and doula related you will find article after article on "Things You Should Ask Your Doula". They all list questions that you should ask before hiring someone, what things to look for, and give advice on how to know that you are picking the right one for your family. What you won't find though is many articles that cover my favorite service, placenta encapsulation. Like the doula industry, placenta encapsulation isn't regulated and anyone can claim to be a placenta specialist, even without proper training. Unfortunately this makes it hard for the professionals in this industry to be taken seriously and creates a lower standard than what is acceptable. Placenta professionals work hard to set a high industry standard of safety, education, and relationships with providers so when considering potential specialists, keep these things in mind.
- How long have you done this?
This question honestly holds the least amount of merit in my opinion, simply because if they have been properly trained, they are just as valuable as the next placenta professional. I do think it is important to know the experience level though, just so that you have a clear understanding of who you are working with. I absolutely do not think that a newer or "less experienced" encapsulator is less valuable than someone who has done it longer. I think that training, education, and standards are much more important than time alone.
- "Who did you train through?"
There are many training organizations out there, and you likely won't know the difference in any of them. This question is still important though because you want to be sure that they have in fact had a formal training and didn't just watch a youtube video or read a DIY article and think "oh I should do this for other people." This question is two part because once you ask who they trained through, then you follow up with "was it an in person training?" If it wasn't, they are NOT the encapsulator for you. Again, you don't want someone who read a few articles about HOW to do it. You want someone that was professionally trained and taught with a hands on approach. Who someone trained with will also explain the different titles. Placenta encapsulator, placenta specialist, placenta provider, etc. Same job, different pronoun.
- "Where do you provide this service?"
This is where things get interesting and where a lot of encapsulators agree to disagree. Many offer to pick up your placenta from you, encapsulate it, then return within a few days. This is a no exceptions, hard no for me. I ONLY provide this service in the home of the client, and never transport their placenta for them. This ensures that you know exactly where your placenta has been, you know without a doubt that it has been handled properly, and you can watch the encapsulation process from start to finish. There have been MANY documented instances of someone having the wrong placenta delivered to them, and then consuming it. When the placenta is transported home by you, then encapsulated right in front of you there is absolutely no question, no doubt, no worry. Not to mention the fact that most likely, you have never seen the inside of your encapsulators home, have no idea where your placenta will be stored, how clean/sanitary the process will be, if anything extra has been added, if it wasn't properly handled, or again if it's even yours. I absolutely only recommend the process being done in your home.
- "Are you blood born pathogens certified?"
This is another one that is a big deal for me because a placenta is filled with blood, and it needs to be properly handled. All safety precautions need to be taken, and the encapsulator needs to be well versed in blood born pathogens protocols, as well as food handling guidelines. You may think that this isn't necessarily a concern for the client because it's their blood, but it speaks to the education, and standards of the encapsulator therefor it's a question that I believe is relevant and important. This also means that they are trained in properly sanitizing their work space (your counters/sink) and their equipment, which is obviously extremely important.
- "What method(s) do you use?"
The biggest two methods used for placenta encapsulation are raw and steamed. Both are believed to provide many benefits, and it's really a personal choice as to which method you prefer. Some encapsulators will offer both, I only offer steamed. I do this as a precaution to make sure that any and all bacteria is removed before dehydrating. When you are deciding what method you want to use, your encapsulator should be able to provide information regarding both, and why they chose the method(s) they use.
- "How do you do placenta prints?"
This isn't a service that all encapsulators offer, and isn't even something that all clients are interested in. If you are a client that IS interested in it though, its important to know the process. Some will paint the placenta directly then do the print, some will add paint or other embellishments to the print on top of the blood outline, others will only use the blood from the placenta and then it can either be left as is or the client can add any embellishments to it that they want. My recommendation is no paint, or food coloring on the placenta itself if you are encapsulating it because then that paint/food coloring will be consumed with each capsule. This is a personal choice, as there are food grade paints available. I would just check with your encapsulator to see how they do it, and what, if any, add ons they use.
- "How long does the process take?"
This will depend on the method that they use, the standards that they adhere to, and if they will be delivering them to you or if it's done in your home. They should lay out a clear timeline of the process and what you can expect.
- "What are the possible benefits/side effects?"
Your encapsulator should be very transparent with these. All of the information we have on placenta consumption is anecdotal and nothing is guaranteed. There are many great potential benefits and they can discuss with you what their previous clients have reported, but they should never guarantee any outcome. Like with the consumption of anything, there are potential side effects and while most people have positive experiences, not everyone does. Your encapsulator should be up front about both potential benefits and side effects.
I'm choosing not to list the full spectrum of either here because it's enough for a full article itself.
- "How many capsules will I get?"
This is another question that your placenta provider should be transparent about. The exact number of capsules you get will depend on the size of your placenta. No exact number should be guaranteed.
"Can you help me with questions my provider has?"
One of the biggest questions that client's have is how to discuss their plans to encapsulate with their provider. Understandably, not all providers are comfortable with encapsulation and generally it's because they don't know enough about it, or are concerned about the ethics and standards of the person you choose. Your placenta specialist should be able to answer any and all questions your medical provider may have, and can help facilitate a relationship where they are comfortable with releasing your placenta. If your specialist ever suggests, encourages, or says they will help "steal" your placenta from your birthing facility, run. They are not the one for you, and are part of why placenta encapsulation as a profession has struggled to be taken seriously. Your specialist should also know the laws (if any) regarding the birthing facility releasing your placenta to you.
As someone who has personally worked hard to elevate the standards of this industry I truly believe that demanding excellent standards starts with you, the client. The purpose of the service is to help you in the postpartum period, and you need to be able to trust that your placenta is being handled properly. If you follow this guideline of questions, then you should have no worry that you have chosen an expert placenta provider. In most cases, you only have one placenta (each time) and you want be sure that you have picked the most qualified person for the job. Keep this in mind when discussing prices as well, as with most other things when it comes to placenta encapsulation, you get what you pay for.