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  • Writer's pictureArielle & Ashley

Placenta Encapsulation Under Fire After CDC Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning new mothers to stay away from the practice of placenta encapsulation after one incident where a mother’s placenta capsules infected her newborn baby with Group B Streptococcus (GBS).

This is obviously horrifying, but cases like this one can be avoided with safer standards for placenta preparation. Currently, there are no standards protocols or regulation for processing a placenta for human consumption and practices vary widely from company to company.

In this particular case, the mother had tested negatively for GBS at 37 weeks, but the fast-growing infection developed between her initial test and giving birth. Actually, 1 in 4 women have GBS and are treated with IV antibiotics every 4 hours during labor to prevent the spread of the bacteria to their babies. GBS is one of the leading causes of meningitis and sepsis in a newborn’s first week of life. With antibiotic treatment in labor, there is a 1 in 4000 chance of passing the infection to the baby as opposed to the 1 in 200 chance without antibiotic treatment.

Since her test had come back negative, she wasn’t treated with antibiotics and her baby and placenta were exposed to the bacteria and caused an infection. A placenta exposed to GBS is not contraindicated for placenta encapsulation, but does require a different method of preparation than was used.

Safety is among our top concerns and we obviously never want something like this to happen to anyone. Although surely rare, cases like this can happen where placenta is released from the hospital or birthing facility without knowledge of it being infected. Because we know this can be the case, we use consistent high safety standards for all placenta preparation to reduce bacterial counts and prevent infection from occurring.

CDC mentions in their statement that heating at 130 degrees for 121 minutes is necessary to decrease infection-causing bacteria counts. At Music City Doulas, we first steam the placenta on the stove in a stainless steel pot and steamer basket before it is sliced and placed into a dehydrator at 160 degrees overnight until the pieces are completely dried and no moisture remains.

The placenta is processed in the client’s own home, preventing the chances of any foreign bacteria being introduced to the placenta and completely eliminating any chances of placenta mix-ups.

All specialists attend an in-person, hands-on practical training with a donated placenta to practice on and an intensive certification process and exam. They are also all certified in OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens specifically for placenta encapsulation and follow those guidelines for sanitization. This includes using proper safety attire, such as hair covering, eye protection, face mask, gloves, shoe covers, and an apron.

All one-use equipment is disposed of upon use, such as sponges for cleaning, cutting boards, skewers, paper towels, and any unused vegetarian capsules. Reusable equipment is first cleaned thoroughly in warm soapy water and then submerged into a cold bleach bath at a 1:10 solution for 10 minutes. This includes the dehydrator trays, broken down grinder/blender pieces, stainless steel pot and steamer basket, capsule machine, and ceramic knife.

With more and more families realizing the potential benefits of consuming their placenta, the practice is growing and becoming more popular. As this continues to happen, we foresee a call for standardization and regulation to ensure it is being done safely for all who desire it.

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