Correlation Isn't Causation: GBS and Placenta Encapsulation
Today, the CDC published an article about an Oregon woman who had her placenta turned into pills who also happened to have a perinatal infection resulting in a longer hospital stay for her baby. Though the CDC article clearly states that other family members can not be ruled out as possible sources of the infection to the baby, doctors came to the conclusion that the woman somehow managed to pass the GBS infection present in the placenta to her newborn by eating placenta capsules that tested positive for the bacteria. It is important to note that the baby had already had the infection days prior to the consumption of capsules and recovered both times with antibiotics.
The CDC states: “The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided.” While I understand the intention, it is unreasonable to jump to avoidance, as speculation about the exact source of the infection should not be taken as scientific evidence particularly when there is evidence to the contrary. Dr. Sophia Johnson's recent research at Jena University demonstrated that with safe and appropriate temperatures and preparation methods, bacteria including streptococcus is eliminated or greatly reduced, well below the threshold for food products by U.K. Standards which makes the basis for the CDC assumptions not factual. GBS can also be transmitted via oral sex and certain foods and I haven't seen any warnings issued against those.
At Spirited Birth, we acknowledge that this placenta in Oregon could have been prepared in an un-safe manner by whomever this woman hired, and if that is the case, it should serve as a wake up call to our industry. We must realize that one poorly trained professional can tarnish the industry for many.
If you are hiring a placenta encapsulation provider, ensure that their preparation process is free of cross contamination and with processing temperatures that destroy bacteria. Ask them to explain the safety of their process. If they refuse, be leary. At Spirited Birth, we love questions and are elated when clients want to know about our process because we are 100% confident in it. We want to validate any concerns about safe placenta processing. At Spirited Birth, we do not prepare placentas for encapsulation when the infant is sent to the NICU with signs of infection or if the mother showed signs of infection during labor. When in doubt, we have even had clients request that a piece of the placenta be taken to pathology to be cultured while the parents stored the rest of the placenta to ensure there is no infection present before processing. Additionally, we are careful to process placentas at food safe temperatures as verified by research from Dr. Sophia Johnson with Jena University that kill bacteria, such as GBS. Her research concluded: "The preparation of placental tissue has a clear effect on the microbial contamination: dehydration causes a drastic germ reduction, steaming followed by dehydration causes an even greater reduction of microbial species. Regarding to foodstuff regulations of the European Union, no “unsafe” organisms were detected in our samples." So, when you hire us, just being positive with GBS isn't a reason not to encapsulate unless there is a infection or other reason to send the placenta to pathology. Tens of thousands of women in the U.S. are reportedly eating their placenta and Spirited Birth has prepared 1000+ encapsulations since 2009 without hearing of one association such as the one reported in the CDC article.
We believe strongly in the benefits that our clients have reported after encapsulation and we stand by this service.
We are available via phone or e-mail if you have any questions about our processing standards or methods.