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"I strongly encourage you to NOT encapsulate due to being Group B Strep positive" a doctor tells you. Let's talk why they may say that and why it may still be encapsulat-able.
While it is important to do your own research, I fully support whatever decision you decide to make concerning what you put in your body.
Placenta Encapsulation and GBS
Is is safe to encapsulate my placenta if I'm GBS positive? If so, you're not the only one. In 2017, The CDC released a single case study concerning a sick newborn whose mother had her placenta encapsulated, and placenta pills were named as a potential source of the baby’s recurrent Group B Strep (GBS) infections. So is it true? Can placenta pills make babies sick?
The best news out of the case study is that the baby is now healthy, but the situation does provide some hard questions about placenta encapsulation services for individuals who test positive for Group B Strep. When it comes to the safety of babies, parents and encapsulators - the highest priority must be SAFETY FIRST – for everyone.
Let’s look at a few facts about following the evidence-based guidelines that are well established in food safety preparation. These same procedures are what restaurants use to reduce the risk of food poisoning, pathogens and other illness that can be transferred via our food. (Please note that I carry a certificate in both Blood Borne Pathogens and a Food Handlers License).
Placentas and Food Safety
Placenta safety and food safety principles have these in common:
Placentas and Blood Borne Pathogens
Using the above principles, I establish processes that help ensure safety in the encapsulation process.
Placentas MUST be heated to 140F. I dehydrate at 160F and don't offer any placenta products that do not include heating the internal temperature of the placenta to 140. Encapsulation heats our any potential GBS or even antibiotic used, during the steaming and dehydrating process of encapsulation.
Placentas MUST be refrigerated/stored correctly to reduce the risk of illness. This includes any time between when the placenta is birthed and when it is picked up as well as how it is stored until it is processed. I have a variety of ways to obtain and store placentas in food safe temperatures so that I can use the one that best suits your clients and business.
Bleach and other EPA registered disinfectants should be used at every stage of the process - there is no substitute. All items that come in contact with a placenta or placenta waste MUST be disposable or cleaned properly. Disposable items should be used when possible but anything that is not disposable that is used at any point in the encapsulation process must be bleached both to avoid pathogens and cross contamination.
When might placenta encapsulation be unsafe?
Here’s where we circle back to our family from the CDC case study. Beyond unsafe storage, the biggest reason to not encapsulate a placenta is if the birthing person or baby has an infection at the time of delivery or within 24 hours of that delivery. Active infection is always a contraindication to encapsulation.
We don’t know many of details of the encapsulation process from the CDC case study. Perhaps the encapsulator did not follow food safety guidelines - though that has not been confirmed by either the encapsulator or the CDC. Perhaps poor hand washing played a role - once again, completely unconfirmed. However, we do see in the CDC report that the baby was diagnosed with an infection within 24 hours of delivery, so we absolutely know the placenta was not safe for encapsulation. In all likelihood, the encapsulator had no idea an infection was present, so this serves to underscore the importance of communication with encapsulation clients.
Making the Best Choice
Only a birthing family can decide what options are best for them. I provide info on my safety procedures to my clients upon request. I also communicate with my clients when placenta encapsulation is not the safest choice.
Meconium (Baby Sh*t) Happens
Meconium on the placenta is not a contraindication for placenta encapsulation. The bacteria in meconium is from your own body and the placenta is thoroughly washed and steamed at 220 degrees F for 20 minutes to kill any bacteria or viruses present. Bacteria and viruses cannot survive at temperatures higher than 131 degrees F. It is also important to note that meconium is not the same as human fecal matter.
Meconium staining, if at all, is typically on the fetal side of the placenta, membranes and umbilical cord. I have no problem removing it and continuing on with your encapsulation. Each placenta has two layers to the amniotic sac. The chorion is the thicker layer that is physically attached to the bulk tissue of the placenta. The amnion is the second layer which is thin, fragile, see-through and is the portion that directly holds the fluids in. This is the layer that is directly touching the baby. When the baby passes meconium in utero, the thick, sticky substance can adhere to the membranes and umbilical cord. I can actually pull back the amnion layer of the amniotic sac, which would remove all of the meconium from the fetal side of the placenta. If there is still meconium staining, simple water will not fully remove it. I will then gently rub or soak the placenta with a small amount of apple cider vinegar to remove it, rinsing it off before it is prepared. If the placenta, even after soaking still appears to be severely stained, I will not go through with encapsulation.
Meconium is not a reason for your placenta to be sent to pathology or a contraindication of encapsulation. If you are told your placenta needs to go to pathology or is no longer safe for encapsulation let your OB/Midwife/nurse know that you intend to take your placenta home so you decline it being sent to pathology.
The evidence shows us that testing positive for GBS (simply being colonized) is not a safety concern for consuming a properly prepared and handled placenta. Only if there is a present infection during labor can I not encapsulate.
Regarding meconium, it is cleaned and rinsed thoroughly before steaming. Steaming removes any possible present bacteria from meconium.
If you'd like to chat more about encapsulation and guidelines, please reach out for any concerns and/or questions!
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