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Anna Williamson talks us through her 'placenta encapsulation'

Breaking Mad author Anna Williamson on why she's turning her placenta into pills

I’ve never been a fan of offal. Anything that has been a vital organ in an animal is, as far as I’m concerned, better suited to a transplant list than a dinner menu.

So what about when it comes to eating our own organs? To the average, civilised human being, this is a disturbing thought. Or is it?

Animals in the wild have been eating their afterbirth – a vital pregnancy organ - since the dawn of time. In fact, along with humans, marine mammals are the only mammals which don’t eat their own placenta.

Before I got pregnant, I’d read stories and seen TV programmes about women who had decided to eat theirs after giving birth. My first reaction was ‘eughh!’ My second was, ‘WHY?!’

Some believe it holds key ingredients to help the new mother recover from birth.

According to these women, who tended to be ‘earth mother’ types who practically knit their own pushchairs, the placenta - which has spent nine months passing nutrients from mother to baby - is still jam-packed with all the good stuff and shouldn’t be wasted. In fact, instead of discarding the seemingly defunct organ like a used tissue once it’s been delivered (in the ‘third stage’ of labour), there are some who believe it holds key ingredients to help the new mother recover from birth, and assist as she begins breastfeeding. 

Other claims about this gory, bloody mass include; that it can give mothers a much-needed energy boost, it can increase milk production, it can balance out hormones and help to replenish depleted iron levels. It’s even said to help stave off the dreaded post-natal depression.

Eureka! Hearing the last one: post-natal depression – was when the lightbulb moment happened for me. I was all ears!

I have spent a lot of my career campaigning for the awareness and destigmatisation of mental health and, in particular, anxiety and depression. Indeed, when I found out I was pregnant, I spoke very openly about how the hormone shift of being up the duff might affect my now (fortunately) dormant anxiety and depressive disorders, and how coming off any medication might affect me.

At one point my GP thought a smattering of PRE-natal depression had come for a visit.

I’m delighted, and very lucky, to say that I’ve had a fairly straightforward pregnancy, but I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been a few days along the way where the old anxious and low mood ‘black cloud’ feelings have threatened to creep back in. At one point my GP thought a smattering of PRE-natal depression had come for a visit.

Fortunately, anxiety is my speciality - I have a book about it about to come out - so I’ve used my various tried-and-tested techniques to right myself. It doesn’t stop me from being human, however, and the fact is that I am more susceptible to develop post-natal depression than someone who hasn’t suffered from anxiety.

So, when I heard one of the NCT mums mention she was having her placenta ‘encapsulated’ to help ward off any baby blues, I very quickly sidled up to hear more. 

Eating a great hulk of meat, particularly if it’s come from inside me, is never going to happen - but there is a way of getting these apparently PND-busting nutrients into me, after the baby is born, in a palatable way.

I’ve paid £185 to a reputable company with stringent hygiene standards for what is called ‘placenta encapsulation’, or rather, turning my placenta into magic pills.

How does it work? Well, on the day I give birth, my husband will give my midwife the printed-out instructions from the ‘placenta lady’, which has clear pointers on how to prepare and store the placenta in the airtight container and cool bag which is provided in advance, and then we call her straight away. She will personally drive to the hospital, collect the ‘placenta package’ and take it back to her lab to be steamed, dehydrated and grounded into pills. They are then couriered back to me within three days – eh voila. A service that doesn’t get more personal or personalised.

I’m yet to be proven satisfied whether these magic placenta pills can actually live up to the hype. But, with my mental health history, I’m not taking any chances.


:: The pills image which forms part of the collage above is sourced from Requiem Stock