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Almond milk, frozen fruit, matcha powder, ground flaxseed – and placenta.
Virginia Maddock says these are five common ingredients for her ”new-mother smoothie”.
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The Sydney ‘placenta specialist’ is one of many certified after-birth consultants who – at the mother’s request – transform the placenta into edible or keepsake items.
From art work and dream catchers to pills, infused vodka, smoothies and even jerky, Virginia claims there are numerous benefits to repurposing or ingesting one’s placenta.
“Some mums record a lot more energy [from consuming the placenta], almost like they’ve had an espresso coffee,” Virginia tells 7Life.
“It can also help boost your mood and ward off post-partum blues and balance hormones.”
The mother -of two, who is a qualified nutritionist, was introduced to the idea of “placenta encapsulation” after ingesting her own “placenta pills”.
After the home birth of her second child, her placenta was collected by her midwife and transformed into ‘pills’.
Virginia had been bracing herself for exhaustion, with having to care for a newborn and a toddler.
But she felt quite the opposite – and credits her positive experience to consuming her placenta.
Recounting her increased energy, Virginia wanted to give this experience to other new mums.
So she undertook training in placenta encapsulation, completing courses in Food Safety and Bloodborne Pathogens.
Now recognised by a body called Placenta Services Australia, Virginia offers a variety of services, her most popular being “raw placenta encapsulation”.
After her client gives birth, Virginia will collect the fetal organ and take it to her home.
She first drains out the blood and trims off any excess.
She then gently presses the organ and umbilical cord on a piece of paper, creating a print described as a “placenta tree”.
Next, she separates the cord from the placenta and, at the client’s request, forms a shape, such as “a heart, 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 alongside the cord to dry out.
After 20 hours, the dehydrated organ is then placed in a blender, and the resulting powder is poured into about 100-200 capsules ready for the mother.
Another style of placenta encapsulation is steaming the organ in ginger and fresh lemon before the dehydration process.
Virginia says when reality TV star Kim Kardashian promoted the benefits she experienced from taking placenta pills after giving birth to her second child, Saint, her services skyrocketed.
“I certainly saw a huge boost in business after that,” she says.
Cream, dream catcher, tincture
Virginia also offers keepsake items like turning the umbilical cord into a dream catcher.
She can also take a small amount of a woman’s placenta and place it into a large bottle of alcohol (tincture), stretching out the longevity of consumption.
She is also equipped to make creams, smoothies and has even had a special request from a new dad – “placenta jerky”.
“I actually had one dad ask me to make a piece of jerky out of placenta,” she says.
“He said he washed it down with a beer afterwards.”
Whilst Virginia’s services are varied, she is yet to cook or bake a placenta for a client.
From placenta lasagnas (‘plasagnas’), placenta sausage rolls or even a placenta steak, Virginia was featured in the podcast Zero Waste Baby where they explore these possibilities.
Transforming more than 400 placentas for clients, Virginia is aware of some of the stigmas surrounding consumption of the organ.
But she says she sticks to strict Australia Food Safety Standards to ensure the best product.
Medical expert speaks
Medical experts say placenta consumption has occurred throughout time, but it’s not without risk.
“Women have ingested placenta in a variety of forms for centuries,” says Dr Sarah Tedjasukmana from Sydney Perinatal Doctors.
“Claimed benefits include physical, like replenishing iron levels, and psychological, such as decreasing 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 process of encapsulation is unregulated, and mothers run the risk of bacterial or viral infection, along with issues such as too much hormone concentrated in the placental tissue.
“These can also cause issues for the baby if breastfed.
“My advice would be not to risk it.”
Virginia provides holistic health, doula and placenta services at Natural Beginnings.
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