Many of our wonderful clients and birth associates are inquiring about the safety of placenta encapsulation after a recent case of late-onset Group B Strep infection in a newborn. If you haven't read these articles but want to know more, here is the CDC statement on the case from September 2016. As with any highly publicized issue in the news, it is vital to equip yourself with all the pertinent information from reliable sources. This is a singular case where an infant was treated for early-onset GBS infection but returned to the hospital within a few days of discharge with a recurrence of the infection. The mother informed the physician that she had been ingesting her placenta, which was then tested and found positive for GBS. It's worth noting that no bacteria was found in the mother's breastmilk. Also, infection of other household members could not be ruled out, but due to matching strains in the capsules and the infant's culture and no other verifiable source of the bacteria, the end determination is that increased colonization of the bacteria on mother's skin and in her intestinal track could have facilitated re-infection of the infant. The CDC article also points out that it is possible that the placenta was not processed at a high enough temperature to guarantee eradication of the bacteria. GBS infection of an infant whose mother was treated with antibiotics during labor only occurs in 1 of every 4,000 births. Though it is rare, the infection can cause severe health risks to an infant including meningitis and sepsis.
Birth by Design feels it is incredibly important to address this issue and your questions head-on. It is actually quite encouraging that the medical field is paying attention to placenta encapsulation. This ancient practice is more common than many physicians realize and there is definitely a great need for evidence-based information regarding both the benefits and the potential risks. We have very few resources now, as it is difficult to raise awareness and funding for placenta research. It is our hope that this case will push consumers and medical providers towards research rather than fear and panic. The practice of ingesting the placenta holds thousands of years of testimonial experience from women around the world. This should not be discounted and Birth by Design honors the needs and demands of birthing families. In the same space, the safety and health of mothers and babies is the highest priority. Families considering placenta encapsulation are advised to read the information available to them, ask questions with their physician and/or midwife, their doula, and placenta encapsulation specialist before making a final decision about encapsulation. (This post contains links to information for you to review and a list of the links will be available at the bottom of the post)
Here are some things to consider as you and your family make decisions about placenta encapsulation. It is vital to find a placenta encapsulation provider who follows stringent food safety protocols and has appropriate bloodborne pathogen training. Birth by Design encapsulators complete a hands-on training course in a small group setting and provide ongoing training and support to each other throughout the year. They also complete bloodborne pathogen training and use special equipment for placenta processing that is cleaned and sanitized after each use. BBD encapsulators typically utilize the raw preparation method and dehydration of the placenta at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 10 hours. This method ensures the eradication of most bloodborne pathogens to a safe level for human consumption according to food safety standards. Some providers, including the Association of Placenta Preparation Arts (APPA), state that GBS bacteria must be exposed to “moist heat” of at least 130 degrees for a minimum of 30 minutes. The APPA has written a very informative response to this case as well. Taking these further precautions would require the steaming method of placenta processing. It is also important for our clients to know that it is and always has been the policy of Birth by Design that a placenta is ineligible for processing and consumption in the following circumstances:
Birth by Design is taking an active role in protecting you and your newborn while still providing vital services for an empowered birth and postpartum period. We strive to provide evidence-based birth and postpartum practices to our clients and lead the Central Arkansas birth community in making positive changes to the culture surrounding birth. The most important piece of that culture change is to remove fear and panic from our decision-making processes during pregnancy and birth. Empowered birth requires information, education, and support. Therefore, we will continue to encourage our clients to make choices for themselves about placenta encapsulation. We love our clients and their families and believe wholeheartedly that Birth is Better Together!
GBS Information/Resources for Clients