Placenta Pills: Do they live up to the hype?

Mostly I tackle topics from my readers (and I promise that I am going to start on those ASAP!) but I had a little experiment I was running myself that I wanted to share with you all. Eight weeks ago I had my amazingly beautiful baby girl, and in preparing for her birth, our new life together, I wanted to make sure that I was as ready as I could be for the challenges I was about to face, both mentally and physically. One of my biggest fears was postpartum depression, I have no idea why because I was not really at risk, but I wanted to limit my risks and ensure that the three months of maternity leave with my baby girl were the best possible three months for all of us, so I looked into taking placenta pills. It sounds gross, but it was one of the best decisions I made for post birth planning.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression effects around 11-20% of women annually (its around 600,000 in the US alone). It’s normal to have some mild symptoms of feeling sad, anxious, and mood swings after giving birth because you have so many hormonal changes going on in your body once that baby comes out, and it should stabilize in a few days to week or so after birth. Postpartum depression lasts longer than two weeks and can have more extreme symptoms of: severe mood swings, severe anxiety (anxiety attacks), excessive crying, inability to bond with your baby, inability to sleep, lack of eating, irritability and anger, feelings of worthlessness, a lack of enjoyment in activities you used to like, and more severely thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or suicide. If you ever have any thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or others, please call your local emergency services immediately (911 in the US). These symptoms can last a few months, and even longer.

Can anything increase my risk?

Unfortunately, because of a lack of sleep during labor (possibly) and after having the baby, along with hormone changes, every woman has a risk of falling prey to postpartum depression. There are a few factors that may increase your risk of postpartum depression such as:

– Family/personal history of depression

– Previous postpartum depression

– Stressful events during pregnancy: illness, loss of job, change in relationship, or pregnancy complications

– Health problems with your newborn (including colic)

– Difficulty breastfeeding

– Lack of support from partner/friends/family postpartum

How can I prevent it?

Having a baby is not easy, and it is an amazing experience, but you need support of others to help support you, and if you don’t have that support to keep you and your baby healthy, you can easily fall into a depression. Being aware of the signs of depression, as well as having supporters that are also aware of your needs and the signs of postpartum depression is key. Sometimes you need to just get a few minutes to yourself or nap, and it can make you feel like a new person, so having someone who can help you to get you some time alone, when you know your baby is safe and being cared for, is key. But there is another thing you can try: placenta pills.

What are Placenta Pills?

Placenta pills (encapsulation) are a bit controversial in the medical world, but animals, tribeswomen, and now celebrities alike all eat their placenta in some form. The placenta is the organ that forms for your baby to live and grow inside of your uterus, and it is delivered after the baby. The placenta is filled with your own hormones, iron, and other nutrients, so ingesting it help to gently lower your oxytocin hormone levels, thus decreasing the risk of postpartum depression, mood swings, and insomnia related to abrupt hormone changes, and it can even release a hormone that helps to reduce stress. Placenta pills can also help to increase your energy levels and increase breast milk quantity by supplying optimal nutrients to support it, including replacing your iron lost through the birthing process. You can eat your placenta raw, cooked, or encapsulated in pill form; whichever makes you most comfortable.

What’s the science?

So, there really is no research to support placenta pills either as beneficial or detrimental to your health. As a practice throughout the animal kingdom and since the beginning of man, essentially, which is still practiced in rural tribes throughout the world, it truly cannot seem harmful and I felt that it could only be helpful.Placenta Pills

My experience: I worked with Kristin Lynch of Placenta Therapeutics to help encapsulate my placenta. We discussed various options for the encapsulation process (the placenta can be encapsulated raw or steamed) and the benefits of each process, and she helped to walk me through it, along with the dose of the pills. I had her make half raw and half steamed pills, so that I could slowly wean down my hormone levels to normal. Once I got over the fact that I was ingesting one of my own organs, the results were amazing: I had absolutely no signs of postpartum depression, my milk came in right away (and I have actually been an over producer of milk), I’ve had energy (much more than other postpartum women that I have seen), and my sleeping has been great (I admit it helps that my baby is a fabulous little sleeper and eater). I truly believe that the placenta pills helped to calm me and stabilize my hormones throughout this postpartum time; I normally react to my own hormonal changes (I get very crabby monthly) but I really had minimal, if any, changes/reactions after giving birth. Kristin was amazing and checked in on me to make sure I was feeling well and she was available to answer any questions I had, but there were no issues, the pills were a complete success.

I would highly recommend anyone to try the encapsulation, especially if you have had issues with postpartum depression previously, or if you are at risk, to try to prevent it. It cannot harm you, as long as you handle the placenta appropriately (if you have certain infections, or an abnormal placenta you might not be able to use it for encapsulation). If you are in the greater MA area, I highly suggest Kristin Lynch at Placenta Therapeutics (I was in no way given any goods/services for free, I just really think she is amazing), but look here for encapsulation services by reputable services (i.e. they follow blood-born pathogen protocols and ensure that your placenta isn’t exposed to anything infectious!)

Yours in good health




Should the Morning After Pill be available to all Over-the-Counter?

Not too long ago I wrote about the morning after pill, what it is, and how it works. At that time, it was available Over-The-Counter (OTC) to women 17 years old and over, and below that, women (girls) needed to get a prescription to use the medication to prevent pregnancy.

When used within 72 hours after another failed form of birth control, there is a 90% success rate in preventing unwanted pregnancy. I know there is some debate among people, but from a strictly medical standpoint, it is not an abortion pill, because it merely causes irritation to the lining of a uterus, thus not allowing anything to adhere or become fertilized and start growing. It won’t abort and already growing fetus, and should not be taken if you already know that you are pregnant.  morning-after-pill

Recently, legislation has changed. It has been highly debated at which age group the pill should become available without prescription, in 2011, here in the US, it was decided that above 17 years old can get it as an OTC. More recently legislation has changed (granted it is being opposed) so that women of any age can obtain the medication as an OTC. I have mixed emotions on this one: I think that everyone should have a right to medications that would help to prevent pregnancy after a mistake/failed birth control attempts, but should 10, 11, 12-year-old girls be able to walk in and get the morning after pill, if they are sexually active, and not be counseled regarding Sexually Transmitted Infections, or the effects of the Plan B medications on their body, or on how it would be better for them to be on regular birth control, if they continue to choose to be sexually active.  And then there are the young girls that don’t choose to be sexually active but may be forced.  Are we missing a population that needs our help and interventions?

How do parents feel about this? Would you want to know if your young daughter was using the morning after pill? I guess not giving young women the option of having Plan B as OTC, leads them to possibly make other unhealthy choices, or try home “remedies” to prevent pregnancy, which may be dangerous.

I do like the option of women/girls having the right to make their own medical decisions without the need to get an HCP appointment and then get the prescription filled, and there has been no proven negative effects on their bodies (physically) but I am wondering the mental/psychological effects,and if we could do better as HCPs to intervene and help these women. I am really torn, and I am interested what you all think about this, as it is something that almost every woman has an opinion on: When are we being too free with Plan B administration, and when should we step in?

Yours in Good Health


Does eating yams increase fertility or rates of twins?

Well, I heard one of the “housewives” on the Atlanta series make a statement that eating yams increases ones rate of conceiving twins, but I honestly did not think much of it….until I was sent numerous emails to from various readers asking about this one.  There is some research on the topic, but since it seems to be a hot topic with my readers, I wanted to just settle this one, once and for all.

yamsWhat is the deal?

There was a study in 2008 focusing on an African tribe that as rather high numbers of twins and multiple births in their village.  A main source of their diet is yams, and yams are said to effect certain female hormones, that may relate to a 1% higher rate of twins, but yams would need to be ingested in significant amounts to have even a minimal effect (think three times a day). So because the people of this tribe, who eat yams as a mainstay of their diet (due to a their environment), so the conclusion was made that the high yam diet was related to the multiple births by the women of the tribe. The research has not been validated (proved again), so  I am not convinced that eating yams will help you conceive twins.

The highest rate of multiples (or twins) are born to those that have a family history of twins, are older when attempting to get pregnant (the eggs can mutate and split causing twins), or the use of fertility drugs. There are also some rumors that immediately after stopping birth control, you are more likely to conceive twins, but that is not necessarily true; what IS true, is that your fertility is usually increased for that first month as your body is surging with hormones.

It’s a bummer for those of you who wanted to eat (or were already force feeding yourselves) yams in hopes of having two babies all at once, it’s not looking like that is the answer for you.  Your best bet is to find a man with a history of twins and see what sort of magic you two can create…unless you want a designer baby, in which they are genetically designed, which is quite pricey, but you can talk to your OBGYN about your options if this is something super important to you. I am being tongue in cheek, and not at all suggesting that you daddy shop for a man who has a history of twins! But unless you love those yams, you can chill on them and just eat a healthy well-balanced diet; there is no magical food that can increase your rate of twins.

I can’t believe that a fact from “the Real Housewives…” would ever be incorrect!! 😉 Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear!

Yours in Good Health


An Ease for Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness, which is kind of a misnomer as it can happen at any point during the day and may come and go sporadically, is very common during the first couple of months of pregnancy. Some people are able to dig deep and get through it because their symptoms are quite mild, whereas other people can have very severe nausea associated with their pregnancies.  For those with milder to moderate symptoms, a group of HCPs (Healthcare Practitioners) created Preggie Pops and Preggie Drops to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.

PreggiepopsWhat are they made of?

These HCPs created the Preggie Pops using some alternative therapies based upon some accepted alternative therapies and some old wives tales. For example, they are made with a sour flavored base, as this has been handed down by generations of childbirth educators as a treatment for a sour stomach and to squelch a nauseous stomach. As well, they are made with mint and lavender which are aromatic and thought to promote relaxation (lavender) and aid in digestion (mint) along with ginger, which has long been known as a treatment for nausea, to help settle an irritated stomach lining. They are made with sugar, and sometimes nausea can start to occur in pregnancy when the blood sugar starts to get low, almost like a signal that you need to be eating some more because your body (and the baby) need nourishment, and because you are sucking on these pops/drops slowly, you are getting small amounts of sugar, instead of eating large quantities at one time, which totally makes sense!

Do they Work and are they Safe?

They have many testimonials stating that people have used them not only for morning sickness but also for nausea associated with surgery and other illnesses. But, they are a homeopathic treatment that is not FDA approved; they do not contain any drugs, but they are using homeopathic treatments that are untested. On their website they state that they are safe because they are all natural….there are many things that are all natural but they are not safe for your unborn child, or for you. So I urge people to take heed and caution, check with your HCP before using this product or any other for morning sickness/nausea associated with pregnancy, just to really make sure it is safe and you are under the care of an HCP, in case there are any side effects.

At the risk of your health, and your unborn child’s health, it is best to consult with an HCP before taking any sort of supplementation while pregnant.

Yours in Good Health


Should I take Vitamins?

I am asked frequently who should take vitamins, and by frequently, I mean on a daily basis.  And there are certain subsets of people who should take vitamins, and for others it’s a complete waste of money.  Many times people tend to take more vitamins and supplements than is really necessary.

Should I be taking vitamins daily?

Vitamins and other supplements can be really pricey, and not really worth the price tag. Most of the vitamins and supplements that you find are not FDA tested to ensure that the claims on the labels actually match what is inside of the product, even commercially sold vitamins, are not approved.  Most of the time, if you really need to be on a vitamin supplementation, your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) will write you a prescription for it, then you know that the amount of supplement you need is what you are actually getting.

Truly the only people who should be taking vitamin supplementation are people who have a malabsorption disorders:

Chron’s disease, Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD), Celiac Disease, lactose intolerance, severe food allergies, bariatric surgery (gastric bypass), pancreatic insufficiency, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, among other issues.

Also, if you are pregnant, you should be taking prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and iron supplementation to ensure that your fetus is getting adequate nutrition, and your HCP will order these for you so they are FDA approved supplements.

vitamin veggies
If you have a truly poor diet, where you really don’t eat fruits and vegetables,even in juice form, and eat fast food on the regular, then you should probably take vitamins, but if you eat a regular diet, get in fruits and vegetables, then you really don’t need to take any sort of supplementation. It’s just a waste of money. Most of the vitamins and nutrients that are found in supplements can be added to your diet through adding a few fruits and or veggies a day to your diet. I think of my morning smoothies as my vitamins: jam-packed with 4 different fruits, of various colors, which basically gets me all I need for the day (but good thing I add in other fruits and veggies during the day.)

I’m not saying you all have to be smoothie converts, but it actually ends up being cheaper for you to add some fruits and veggies to your diets, and ditch the pills!

Yours in Good Health



Is Black Cohosh safe to induce labor?

In the art of full disclosure, I have never been pregnant, and have no children, so I don’t personally know the feelings of pregnancy.  That being said, I did work in women’s health for a short period, and I have a ton of friends and family who have been there, done that, are doing it multiple more times, and love to talk about it! I love to chat with my friends about the trials and tribulations of their pregnancies, and I think it is such an exciting time. The only time that I think “yikes” is when they are at the end of their pregnancy, digging deep to work basically until they go into labor, they look miserable, and they tell me how exhausted and miserable they truly are. So, I know that people are always looking for ways to induce labor, towards the end of the pregnancy (i.e. after 39-40 weeks) and I always hear the suggestion of Black Cohosh to take as an herbal supplement that will induce labor, but I wanted to look into the safety, the dose, and if it actually works? Labor induction is really just a fancy term for starting the birthing process before your body spontaneously goes into labor, and many people get antsy towards the end of pregnancy, especially if they don’t go into labor after their due date!  Some people say yes, some say no, and I started to wonder if it is how you take it, the dosages, or if your body needs to be ready!

What is Black Cohosh?

Black cohosh is also known as snake root or rattle root, and it is from the buttercup family, which is a perennial plant that is native to North America. It has been used for thousands of years by women to treat all sorts of womanly ailments, including induction of labor…and the juice was used as bug repellant because bugs tend to hate black cohosh and never go near it.

How does it theoretically work?

Apparently there are two different types of cohosh: black and blue.  Black cohosh is thought to have a uterine tonic effect, in that it supposedly strengthens the uterus and causes contractions to occur, and nourishes the uterine tissues to ready them for labor.  Blue cohosh is thought to be similar but causes stronger contraction effects.  But women also take this supplement to ease the symptoms of menopause, PMS symptoms, decrease cramping related to periods, and all of these women claim it works wonders. There is some research to support the use to ease menopausal symptoms, despite the mechanism not truly being understood.  Sounds like a miracle drug to me; it fixes all female issues, right?  In theory, it works similar to estrogen on the body, but it has not been able to be proven. The problem is that while the drug, anecdotally, helps to induce contractions and start labor, it does not “ripen the cervix” in that it can cause the start of contractions but the opening to your uterus, the cervix, is closed tight, which can lead to the need for a cesarean section (AKA a c-section);  a surgical incision through the mother’s skin, into the uterus, to deliver the baby through the stomach when they are unable to deliver vaginally.  The goal is to not require a c-section, but to lead to a successful vaginal birth, so the need to ready the cervix is crucial, or you could just cause yourself one long, uncomfortable labor, and possibly the need for a surgical intervention.

How much do I take?

Before taking any herbal supplement, I strongly encourage you to talk to your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) so you know how much you should take or what interactions you should look for.  The only suggestions for doses to take for induction of labor is 5 drops of black cohosh tincture to a cup of water or tea, starting with one cup a day and moving up to two for a week, and then increasing to 10 drops of tincture per cup for two cups a day until you go into labor. As I said before, this is intended for people who have fetuses of appropriate gestational age (i.e. read to be born so 39 weeks and above!) any younger fetuses, and you run the risk of per-term labor and a premature birth. It is noted that when black cohosh is used for menopausal symptoms, the supplements should not be taken for longer than 6 months at a time, and the “tinctures” don’t allow you to know how much you are ingesting, and you should only take no more than 900mg/day.

Are there any side effects?

– Headache

– Stomach irritation/upset

– Liver failure in high doses

– Seizures

– Low blood pressure

– Irregular heartbeat

– Visual disturbances

– Postpartum hemorrhages (bleeding post birth is difficult to stop)

– Neurological impairments in the babies (when both black and blue cohosh are used)

Who should avoid it?

– Women in pregnancy not intending to induce labor

– Women who have (or have had) breast or uterine cancer

– Anyone with liver disease

– Anyone with clotting or bleeding disorders (clotting factors are made in the liver- the supplement may make the problem worse)

– People with allergies to aspirin

– Anyone with any chronic conditions on medications, until you clear it with your HCP

*I urge anyone thinking about taking an herbal supplement, for any reason, at any point during their pregnancy to discuss with their HCP because of the possible side effects on you and your baby.

All this being said, I really cannot find any true science behind this working, it is all word of mouth, with some women claiming it works, and others say it doesn’t do anything.  I was really hoping there would be some sort of consensus on how to take it, how much, how it actually works….but there is nothing for the induction of labor, only suggested uses for menopause.  My best advice is to talk to your HCP, and go with what they suggest, as there are many other non-herbal ways to induce labor! Plus, nature has a way of working things out, and so does your body; you may want this baby out, but maybe there is a reason your body wants to hold on and protect your wee one for a little bit longer, so try to work with your bodies timing, and if you do need to be induced, go with a safer route….or at least under the guidance of your HCP.

Yours in Good Health