When Brianna Long, morning anchor for KAAL-TV, isn't on TV, chances are she might be racing out of the hospital with someone's placenta in a Ziploc baggie.
Brianna is a placenta encapsulation specialist, one who retrieves and prepares a mother's placenta to be placed in capsules for the mother to take postpartum.
Long, a mother of two, has been at KAAL for about six and a half years. She learned about placenta encapsulation through her own reporting on the subject.
"I had done a story on it for work," she said. "I'd heard that it was becoming a popular thing and didn't know much about it.
"After the story aired, it was still so interesting to me that I kept doing research on it and found at the time there weren't many who offered the service. I thought, 'Hey, I could do that!'"
Long followed instructions from a woman she interviewed for her story and took related training offered by the American Red Cross. She had a few friends who were pregnant, so she started practicing with their placentas after they gave birth.
"After a few times of trying it out and it working really well, I decided to offer it as a service, and the rest is history," Long said.
Not so gross
The process isn't as gross as I imagined. "That's always the first reaction," Long said. "People say, 'You do what?' It's really not that bad. I follow the traditional Chinese method. I go to the hospital and pick up the placenta from the mom as soon as possible after she gives birth, I take it home, and it gets washed and steamed. That process is what will help kill the bad bacteria.
"Then you sort of slice it up and dehydrate it for about 8-10 hours. This part may seem kind of gross, but after you dehydrate it, it kind of looks like beef jerky."
Then, Long grinds down the placenta to a fine powder and has a little machine that she uses to put it in capsules.
"By the time it's done it doesn't look anything like the bloody mess I brought home," Long said. "I usually have it finished about a day after I pick up the placenta."
The number of capsules you can make varies by the size of the placenta, which in turn varies by the size of the baby.
"I think the smallest I've ever done was about 70 pills, and the most I ever did was about 230 pills — that was a very big baby — but id say the average is about 100 to 120," she said.
Mother's little helper
There isn't a strict regimen for taking the pills, but Long said most moms take one or two pills twice a day for the first week or so, when hormones are the craziest, then after that one or two pills a day.
"It truly goes by how you feel," she said. "If you are having a great day, skip it and save them. If you are having one of those 'baby blues' days, then maybe take a couple more."
Long says she's never had anyone say it didn't work for them. For the most part, everyone has said it's been amazing and helped them. Sometimes she prepares capsules for new moms, and sometimes for repeat moms who want to avoid the baby blues this time.
The science of placenta capsules, she said, is "interesting and makes sense. You have all these amazing nutrients and things in your body that are helping to make a baby grow, and then you get all of that out of you at once. I can see why you go a little loopy, so if you put it back in … I can see how that theory works, and so far it seems to be working for everybody, which is awesome.
"I've had two kids and had the baby blues and my hormones were all over the place with both and it was miserable," she said. "So I want to be able to do this the next time around if I am lucky enough sometime in the future to have another child. My husband is actually going to be the one to help me encapsulate for myself when I have another baby, because he has been there through this whole process and has even helped me a bit sometimes."