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The Placenta-Cooking Business Is Booming

This week January Jones revealed that she consumes her own placenta in pill form as part of her post-partum routine. Making the pills apparently isn't much harder than preparing food. Thanks to that and all the publicity, more and more women are getting into it.

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Jennifer Mayer is a practitioner of placenta encapsulation. New moms hire her to turn their placentas into pills that they can take as a nutritional supplement — believed to be high in iron, B-12 vitamins, and certain hormones, and aid in milk production — following the birth of their kids. No conclusive evidence has come out to prove that eating one's own placenta actually carries health benefits or strengthen mothers, but following "New York" magazine's August 2011 story on placenta consumption as a growing trend, which featured Mayer, her business has doubled. With January Jones speaking openly about her own placenta consumption this week, the morning talk shows are calling Mayer once again — and the practice is only likely to become more popular. (More hospitals, the New York magazine article reported, are now willing to give over the placenta to a mom who asks for it, though she better come prepared with her own ziplock bags and tupperware so she can store it safely in her fridge.) Mayer spoke to us about her business and how women can find a good placenta encapsulation practitioner.

How have things changed since the "New York" magazine article came out?

It’s definitely taken off like wildfire in the media. Of course it affected my business because of the exposure. I don’t know if I have any numbers on overall industry growth because it’s not an industry that has tracking statistics. The idea of the practice is to help moms, not get as many clients as possible.

What’s the celebrity impact been on your business? January Jones said she takes placenta pills following the birth of her son.

Suddenly this week the media’s been contacting me multiple times a day. "Good Morning America" contacted me this week about finding a mom to come on the show and talk about it. She was on yesterday.

What questions should women ask before hiring someone?

If they abide by OSHA standards for cleanliness and sterilization, following universal precautions when working with blood, not only for the mom consuming the pills, but for the family who shares the kitchen in which it is prepared. I wouldn’t want to hire someone who’s in it as another thing to add to their resume. I’d want to hire someone who really believes in how special placenta is.

Other suggested questions moms should ask:

1) Where and with whom did you receive your training?

2) Are you certified?

3) What is your sanitation protocol?

4) Do you prepare in my home or somewhere else?

5) Do you add anything to the placenta pills? (There should only be placenta in the pills, no herbs or other additions.)

How long does the training take?

Two days. The process isn’t difficult — people can do it themselves. A service of convenience, I feel, is what I offer to women. Preparing the placenta is like cooking. There are techniques that everyone who can cook can perform, but it’s the act of, when you have the baby, how many extra things you need to do.

It’s like cooking?

I guess prepare would be a better word than cook because you don’t always cook the placenta — sometimes it's raw.

Who certifies these people?

Different practitioners. Placenta Benefits does certifications. My trainer does certifications and I think there are a handful of others.

How would you describe your client base?

My client pool is very diverse. All different socioeconomic classes, racial diversity, so it’s hard to summarize. I guess it’s mainly middle class.

Where are your clients mostly?

I try to stay within an hour radius of Brooklyn. I always prepare in my clients' homes. If people need the service and they’re outside of my service area I refer them to another specialist.

Are there that many specialists practicing?

My teacher is training women in other states. She did some training in Long Island, Vermont, New Jersey.

So people encapsulate placentas all over, then.

Oh yeah. There are different directories online that list practitioners state by state. There’s a map that shows where practitioners practice.

Do you think the stigma is diminishing?

I think that’s changed a lot in the past year. Definitely I think people are more open to it.

How much do you charge for your services?

I charge $250-$280 for my services, depending on the basic (just encapsulation) or complete (add tincture and prints) package.

How many clients do you see a week?

I see one to two clients a week for placenta encapsulation. Additionally I offer labor support services as a birth doula and I have a massage therapy practice in Brooklyn. I'm a licensed massage therapist.

January Jones.
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

January Jones.