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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An ancient Asian practice is finding its way to Indiana homes and new mothers who want to avoid the pitfalls of postpartum depression.

Kristen Biehl and Meredith McCall have called on the Indianapolis Doulas for their expertise in placenta encapsulation.  They have chosen to preserve, prepare, cook, grind and eat their own placentas, with the hope that the organ will keep them on an even emotional keel.

“I wanted to do everything I could to maintain my control over my emotions and anxiety,” said Kristen Biehl.

The process starts in the delivery room. After the baby is born, the placenta is expelled and then kept in plastic pouch inside an insulated bag. It’s refrigerated until the patient arrives home, where doula, Colleen Downey, takes over.

Downey thoroughly cleans her workspace in her client’s kitchen and then cleans the placenta with running water. If her client chooses, she makes an imprint of it on paper, as a keepsake. The organ, which surrounded the fetus in the womb, is placed in a pot, with a lemons and water.  The heat is turned up and the placenta is steamed.

“It needs to be about medium rare,” said Downey. “Just like a steak. So I poke it to make sure more blood or fluid doesn’t come out. I make sure it’s cooked. If it is, I can take it out and let it cool.”

After it’s cooled, Downey slices it and dehydrates it. The next day, encapsulation begins, with the grinding of the dried placenta. The granules are poured into empty capsules and it’s ready to be eaten.

“My kids found it really fascinating, as did I,” said Meredith McCall, a new mother. “We got to watch her do everything and they got to learn how amazing a placenta is and the benefits of it.”

Meredith took her capsules three times a day at first. Later, she took them as needed.

Dr. Michelle Murphy, an OB/GYN with Community Health, says the data isn’t there to prove that eating one’s placenta has any beneficial effect.

“I do not think there is any medical benefit, at this point, due to a lack of any good studies showing that it helps with any postpartum depression or mood swings,” said Murphy. “Estrogen, once you cook it, is not going to be absorbed when you take it by mouth in a capsule form. So at this point of the whole processing, you’ve kind of defeated the purpose.”

Still, women do believe it helps.

“It’s actually been smooth. I haven’t felt the big spikes that I did after I had our son,” said McCall.

“I found when I did take my placenta pills, I did feel more balanced, more grounded. It didn’t take away the challenges, it eased things, some,” said Elisabeth Lighty.

“The fear of facing postpartum depression,” said Biehl, “while caring for two kids, was a lot greater than the fear of taking another pill.”

Placenta encapsulation is centuries old, practiced most often in Chinese medicine.

In central Indiana, Indianapolis Doulas, offer the service for those mothers and families who choose to prepare and ingest their own placentas. For more on the Indianapolis Doulas and placenta encapsulation click here.