On June 30, 2017 the CDC published a new article on their website entitled Notes from the Field: Late-Onset Infant Group B Streptococcus Infection Associated with Maternal Consumption of Capsules Containing Dehydrated Placenta - Oregon, 2016. This article has sparked a lot of controversy within my community. I have a few things to say about this, and I'm going to give it to you straight.
First of all, I've been a Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialist for three years with a plethora of clients. My training was extensive in the proper handling techniques. In order to receive certification for making pills, I received a Food Handling Certification, plus, a Bloodborne Pathogens And Infection Control for Placenta Encapsulation Specialists Certification. I haven't had any clients have any adverse reactions or side effects from taking the pills I have created for them. Every one of my clients have reported only beneficial feedback to me, which I collect a week following my services.
What have my clients said about taking the pills I made from their placentas? Great question: mood stabilization, energy increase, increase of milk production; and overall, more postpartum happiness when compared to their other births without placenta pill consumption. All good, no bad. You know what I haven't heard before? That Group B Strep is given to babies via their mothers consuming placenta pills...that is, until now! So, what's the story and what is Group B Strep?
Basically, a woman went in and had a routine checkup at 37 weeks to see if she had Group B Strep, aka GBS. About 1 in 4 women carry Group B Strep and have no symptoms. It is a transient bacteria, also, so you could test negative and then have it right before you give birth (sneaky!). How do you give it to baby? Sometimes, babies are exposed to it and have severe issues (namely sepsis, pneumonia, or meningitis) and the exposure happens sometimes while the baby is in utero and sometimes during labor while passing through the birth canal. It can pass through breastmilk, but, it is currently thought that the health benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any risks. This Mom was negative for GBS at her 37th week. Shortly following the birth, the baby had breathing issues and was taken to the hospital where the baby was found to have GBS. This is scary. As a mom, I'd be very concerned. But, luckily, it's an easy fix with proper antibiotics, although, the infection can come back. The baby was put on antibiotics for 11 days and sent home. Less than a week later, baby came back with the same infection. The mother's breastmilk was tested and found negative for this GBS. Now, if I were a doctor, which I'm not, (I'm just a Doula, Placenta Pill Specialist, a mother of two, and a college graduate with deductive reasoning skills) I'd say that the baby wasn't clear of the first infection. But, the CDC is saying that the reason the baby had the GBS is because the mom was taking GBS infected placenta pills. But, hold on, I just said that the breastmilk wasn't tainted with it. So, how would the pills be to blame? Mystery NOT solved.
So, here is a case of the CDC jumping to conclusions without proper evidence based information and now hospital policies are changing and creating barriers for GBS infected women who want to have placenta pills made. This is also a direct disservice to the American People, as their pledge states they are to "base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data that is derived openly and objectively". This is unfortunate since I have yet to find convincing evidence that the pills are to blame for this unfortunate incident. But, honestly, this was just a matter of time. As our community grows, the placenta businesses build, and new mothers are turning to holistic and natural healing processes to aid them in their postpartum healing, the governmental agency steps in to instill fear into the media and into the minds of pregnant women.
We need to be mindful consumers and find properly trained and competent Placenta Encapsulation Specialists, for sure. But, we also need to understand that unregulated natural supplements that are not financially benefitting the large pharmaceutical companies, the health insurance juggernauts, large hospitals, or governmental agencies, are going to be under scrutiny. The easiest step is to discredit what we, as Placenta Encapsulation Specialists, are doing. The next is to start regulating our industry and making it more and more difficult to help women in our community by providing a much needed and beneficial service. Look, it's not for everyone, but, placenta pills absolutely have a place within our community. Women need options to be empowered and this seems to be yet another attack on our available options. Use your own judgement, but, this is where I stand and I will continue to provide my services to those within my community as I did previously without change.
An interesting thing about beginning my life as a birth worker is the amount of women I meet eager to tell me about the births of their babies. I've heard birth stories in the grocery store, at the mall, at parks, airplanes, everywhere. As soon as I mention I am a doula women are excited to share their stories with me. I am so grateful to have this effect on people as it is one of my favorite topics of conversation. I have noticed it can be very cathartic to discuss what went well and what went awry during a birth, also. My passing friends are sometimes very emotional discussing this extremely intimate part of their life with me. It reminds me of how connected women are on such a deep level. We are all holding these very interesting and personal stories close to our hearts, but, aren't necessarily sharing our heartache about our birth stories or our absolute ecstasy of it, either. These moments truly stay with us for the rest of our lives. I read an account of a woman with severe dementia who could still recount every detail of her children's births. It's ingrained in our very being once we pass through this threshold of motherhood. Birth is profound and life altering. The act of mothering is a whole different story, as it is also profound, but I'm talking about the actual labor and delivery of our babies. This can really make or break someone's perception of their own strength and their self esteem. It's such a personal journey that is unique to each woman, yet, we still share the humanity of the situation and are equally effected by the heaviness of the act of giving birth. I feel as though I am a sounding board for many women who don't usually find the time to reflect on the intensity of what they went through. It's so important to reflect on your journey. It is imperative to really analyze how your labor and birth made you feel. What did you like? What didn't you like? What would you change, if you could? It's healing to talk about these things with loved ones and friends, too. Find some time for yourself and think about your births. Think about what you went through and connect with other women over their birth stories. It's rewarding and helpful, but, it bonds us together. You definitely will find, as I have, that we are interconnected on a deeper level. Women have a sisterhood that we should honor and remember to grow with one another.
When I was pregnant the first time a friend of mine asked if I was considering using a doula during my labor. I had no idea what a doula was. She explained a doula was a non-medical labor support person and that they are usually used during natural childbirths. I had no real reason to use a doula. I thought I'd have enough support from my husband and I felt like I could handle anything else alone. I wasn't 100% committed to having a natural birth, either, so thought a doula's care would really not be effective for me. I just didn't realize doulas are useful for every birth (drugs or no drugs). If I had a doula during my first birth, which was in a hospital, there is no question I would have felt calmer and more supported. My husband was great, however, he was full of nervous energy and wasn't trained as a labor support person. My labor and delivery nurse was present with me during my labor, but, she was mostly using her computer and paying no attention to me except for during my vital checkups. My nurse was not familiar with natural birthing, either. I could have really used a doula.
The studies supporting doulas show that they work best if they aren't related to the Mom. I like to think of it as having someone hired specifically to support you with an unbiased mind, much like a doctor or therapist should not be related to the person they are serving. Your mom, grandma, husband, and sister are all helpful and wonderful support, but, are they trained to handle your specific needs during childbirth? They usually worry so much during labors that they are anxious until the baby is out, then all the focus shifts on the new baby while Mom sits there without the attention she needs. Dads can be trained for labor support, which is wonderful, but I would still recommend having a doula present to give him breaks or to assist him in helping you while you labor and directly after the baby is born. It's a tough job to take on all the responsibility of nurturing the Mother during labor. Even during cesarians a doula would be highly beneficial in staying with the mother during her time of surgery and recovery. Have you ever met anyone who used a doula that didn't recommend using one during your birth? I haven't.
I want you to think about how your birth went or how you want it to go next time. Think about the presence of a doula along with your other medical support and family support. If the vision puts you at ease and lessens some of your anxiety or fear, know that there are many doulas waiting to serve you. That's what we do. That's our passion. We want to make your transition into Motherhood as peaceful and calm as possible. We love birth and we want to take care of you.
I get a lot of reactions when I tell people I make placenta pills. I get the polite people who nod and grin. I get the truly intrigued people who squint and ask me to tell them more. I get the completely disgusted people who cringe and tell me how gross it is. I get it all. Believe it or not, I even get an array of these reactions when I am inside someone's home and preparing their placenta for them! Everyone has a range of emotions regarding what I do. It's to be expected. It isn't mainstream, yet. You see it every now and then on a celebrity site. Some people may think it's just an odd trend that is going to burn out. I think it's catching popularity, not because a supermodel ate her placenta, but, because it actually works for women (and has worked for hundreds of years).
I always follow up after a Pill Service to check on my client. I have yet to meet a new mom who has not told me she loves the effect these pills have on her. 100% of my clients have reported positive results. None of them have had negative side effects. This is the reason I love what I do. This is why I don't think placentas are disgusting. I think placentas are fascinating, healing, and beautiful. I like that I can see beauty in things others cannot yet see. I hope that even though it may not be for everyone, they consider that it is an option for them. I hope that next time your friend is pregnant (or your wife, or your sister, or you) you can remember that this is an option. Within every woman there is the option to heal after her baby has made his or her journey earthside and it's really not as disgusting as you think. The more options we have, the more empowering our journey into motherhood becomes, and I'm all about empowerment.