Giving birth in 2024: what you need to know from placenta pills to postnatal retreats

Hi, welcome to the future. It’s a place where giving birth isn’t as simple as showing up at the hospital (unless you want it to be) and there are so many new options for mothers to think about after giving birth. Should you have your placenta encapsulated? What is cord blood banking? Is a postnatal retreat worth it? These are the questions floating around so many new moms’ heads along with the question: do I even have the time/energy to care?

Researching and choosing from these new birthing practices and preferences are kind of a lot to add to the mental load of already preparing for a new baby. From prepping your birth plan to researching the big stuff, like C-sections and labor tips, adding in extra things to think about can feel like an unnecessary use of precious pre-baby time and money. We get it. But we think you should still know about your options. We did the deep dive for you and are here to give you a meet and greet with the top three postpartum trends we’ve been seeing new moms talking about. Disclaimer: none of these things are new, in fact they’ve been around a long time! They’re just getting more popular. Let’s talk about ‘em:

Placenta encapsulation: pros and cons

You’ve heard of this one. Maybe Kourtney Kardashian’s placenta encapsulation video showed up on your feed or there’s a chance you saw a TikTok touting the benefits of placenta pills on postpartum depression. Regardless, we know placenta encapsulation has made its way into the mainstream for its claims about helping moms postpartum with everything from milk supply to energy levels.

Placenta encapsulation research

We found a 2018 article published in the National Library of Medicine which considers possible benefits and potential risks of placenta consumption, adding up findings from eight different studies where the effect of placenta intake on lactation, baby’s weight, better moods for moms, mothers’ iron status, as well as reduced bleeding and faster recovery for mom. All in all, eating a placenta resulted in either positive or no effects on the moms and babies. No negative effects were found in any of the eight studies, and therefore, this group of researchers leave mothers with the summarizing info that, sure, placenta pills could help. However, there’s a small chance they could introduce toxins or infections to the baby, though none of the studies found that to be true. Just eat that placenta at your own risk.

One cautionary case study has been released from the CDC, citing details from a situation where a breastfeeding newborn tested positive for Group B Streptococcus (that thing you’re tested for in the weeks leading up to your birth!), which was also found in the mother’s placenta pills she had been taking. The CDC states that “Placenta ingestion has recently been promoted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking” and that placental encapsulation processes do not use high enough heat to kill infectious pathogens which could be present in the placenta. In the end, the CDC does advise against ingesting placenta pills, because of the possibility of introducing these pathogens to your baby. 

Doulas on placenta encapsulation

Doulas and midwives are traditionally very in favor of placenta pill consumption. In fact, many offer placenta encapsulation services along with their care packages, like Soul Shine Birth, a birth and postpartum doula team ran out of Orange County, CA. Aurora, one of Soul Shine’s co-founders, says their clients have reported noteworthy postpartum benefits and that the direct, concentrated nutrients found in each mother’s placenta pills are like “a local farmers' market for essential organic elements.” Who doesn’t love a good farmers’ market?

How much is placenta encapsulation?

There isn’t a set cost for placenta encapsulation, as there are a myriad of routes to go. Local doulas/midwives tend to charge $200-450, depending on the packages and services they offer, such as coming to your birthing place to personally retrieve the placenta, next-day pill delivery, or art print keepsakes with the placenta. Based on 3 popular placenta encapsulation companies, going this route tends to be between $299-450. With the price ranges being similar, it really comes down to which route you’re most comfortable with!

So… Should I get my placenta turned into pills?

We created a handy chart to help with your decision-making. But go with your instincts on this one. We can’t fully endorse something that the CDC clearly recommends against, but we also don’t want to discount the experiences of so many women who found placenta encapsulation to be extremely beneficial in their postpartum days. If we’ve piqued your interest, talk to your OB, midwife, doula or other trusted healthcare professionals to see what the right move is for you!

what you need to know about postnatal retreats

Don’t you wish you could spend your precious postpartum days fully recovering with someone to wait on you hand and foot? Someone that can take care of the baby anytime you need to sleep or eat or just exist by yourself for a few minutes? For many new moms, their own mother, mother-in-law, or other family member will come to stay in the days following the birth, but what about the ones who don’t have that luxury (for a myriad of reasons!)? Postnatal retreats are here to bring luxurious care to parents and their newborns.

(Image credit: Boram Postnatal Retreat in New York City)

What happens at a postnatal retreat?

Inspired by postpartum care around the world (side note: South Korea does postpartum so well), postnatal retreats exist to “mother the mother” or let the postpartum mom rest and recuperate from labor and pregnancy in a secluded, low-stress environment with on-hand nurses to help her and the baby. Most of these retreats are set in luxury hotels, where a single floor is designated to postnatal services via a company independent from the hotel. After looking at 3 popular retreats in New York City, San Francisco and D.C., the main services provided across the board are: 

24/7 care for mom & baby

24/7 lactation support

Round-the-clock option to send baby to monitored nursery

3 meals a day for mom

On-site education courses (parenting, CPR, etc.)

Some retreats offer additional services like massages, facials, new parent groups and mothers’ lounges for socializing and meeting other new moms. Most retreats emphasize nourishing and healthy foods in the mother’s meal package, to help in the healing process.

how long do people stay at a postnatal retreat?

These retreats are supposed to serve as a transitional step between hospital and home. Most parents come directly from the hospital to their retreat and stay from 3-8 days. Boram Postnatal Retreat in NYC says five nights is their most popular stay duration, while The Village in San Francisco says 6-8 nights is their clients’ typical stay. Of course, we’d love to milk (pun intended) these perks as long as we could, but the duration really comes down to the big question on our minds; how much do these places cost??

how much does a postnatal retreat cost?

The average costs per night of three postnatal retreats in major cities:

Boram Postnatal Retreat- New York, New York — $995/night

The Village- San Francisco, CA — $890/night

Fourth Trimester- Washington, DC — $797/night

So… Should I stay at a postnatal retreat?

When you consider everything you’re getting from these retreats, from lactation consultant visits to round-the-clock care for baby, plus the whole stay at a luxury hotel part, these prices are… still a little too high for most moms to splurge on for themselves. If you’re *really* interested, there’s a chance your insurance could cover some of these prices and you can always add a “postnatal retreat” fund to your baby registry (mom’s needs should be on the registry, too!!). 

We love that America is jumping into the “actually taking care of postpartum moms” game, we just wish it wasn’t such an exclusive, luxurious club. Maybe one day we’ll take a page out of South Korea’s book and have affordable, long-term recovery care for moms post birth, but for now, we’ll keep watching these luxurious postnatal retreats from afar on TikTok.

Cord blood banking

“Are you interested in cord blood banking?” -says your OB, after asking you 500 other questions about your birth plan while you’re 34 weeks pregnant and all you can think about is going home and taking a nap (then spending another 2 hours googling all the things you haven’t decided about your birth plan). If you have a good doctor/midwife, they’ll tell you everything you need to know. But if you want to be ahead of the curve, read on….

What is cord blood banking?

When your little one is born, the umbilical cord is full of blood which is rich in valuable stem cells that can be used to treat many life-threatening diseases. This blood can be collected by your healthcare team and saved for future use by going into either a public or private cord blood banking center.

Public vs private blood banking

The two kinds of cord blood banking are quite different! Putting your baby’s cord blood into a public bank is like a donation. The stem cells will be added anonymously to a large collection of blood that is used either to save strangers’ lives or further medical advancements through research. Many parents choose to donate their cord blood because it would otherwise be thrown away, and why not help strangers when you can?

Private cord blood banking is when you want to specifically save your baby’s cord blood for your own family to use at a later time. Typically, a family history of medical conditions that can be treated by stem cells will encourage parents to choose the private route. This kind of banking can be more controversial, because of the unknowns of whether you’ll ever need the cord blood and how long the blood will need to be kept in its facility, when it could otherwise be actively saving lives in a public bank. It’s important to note that cord blood typically can not be used for the baby the blood came from, meaning you wouldn’t be saving the blood for your new child to use if he should need it. The cord blood could possibly go to his sibling, parent, grandparent or other relative depending on the right match.

how much does cord blood banking cost?

Public cord banking is usually free, if your hospital is already partnered with a cord blood bank (which most are), or available at a low cost. According to 2019 research published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, private banking typically comes with an initial fee between $300-$2,300, then yearly storage fees for the duration of your banking. A popular cord blood banking company currently charges a one-time $680 fee along with a yearly $175 storage fee. You may be able to use insurance or FSA money to help pay for private cord blood banking.

So… Should I bank my baby’s cord blood?

It’s not recommended to privately bank cord blood on the slight chance that you may need it one day. However, if for your own peace of mind or based on medical history you think it’s best for your family, talk to your healthcare provider about banking! Cord blood donations are a great idea if you’d like to support science and help others in the process of bringing your little one into the world.