by Savannah Vasquez
Jenna Ikuta didn’t set out to be a birth advocate but she says the job found her. After struggling through two miscarriages then finding out she was pregnant right as her husband left on a seven-month-long deployment, she decided she needed extra support for the birth of her first-born child.
“I kind of became a fly on the wall at the center,” she said, referring to The Birth Education Center of San Diego where she worked before moving to Fort Walton Beach. “I was already showing signs of antenatal depression (a depression that can affect women during pregnancy). I found the HypnoBirthing (use of hypnotherapy to help reduce birthing pains) info night through my midwife and that really sparked my interest in everything birth related.”
Now, with four years of experience in the birth-support field, Ikuta says she wants to apply her knowledge to the Fort Walton Beach area with a new birth advocate business, Seaside Postpartum. Her business focuses on three aspects; postpartum planning, lactation counseling and placenta encapsulation.
“This is something I came across after I had my oldest,” Ikuta said of postpartum planning. “I help Mom’s meal plan and I help them prepare for coming home. I want moms to be empowered and know that they can set their postpartum boundaries and desires up any way they want.”
After the birth of her first daughter, Ikuta said she was overwhelmed by the expectations of friends and family, and she felt that she had no control over her own wishes for her new baby.
“I want them (new moms) to know that this is their family that they created, and they need to be able to do it in a way that does not create backlash from other people,” said Ikuta. “Things that stress moms out, that’s what we go over … unexpected expectations that you may not have thought of such as boundaries for family, friends and visitors, delegating tasks and a coming-home checklist.”
As for lactation counseling, Ikuta says this is a personal passion of hers as she had struggles with milk supply with both of her children.
“For me, I focus on supporting the mother’s diet,” she said. “I focus on certain foods that help boost milk supply and I make lactation balls that have all the milk-boosting foods in them in an easy-to-eat-for-mom fashion.”
Ikuta also worked at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center and led a nursing-in-public task force.
“So many mothers would come in because they had been harassed for nursing in public, so the task force was there to let them know their rights — that nursing babies were allowed anywhere the moms were allowed,” she said.
The third service that Seaside Postpartum provides, placenta encapsulation, may be the most controversial part of her business, Ikuta said. Placenta encapsulation is the ingesting of the human placenta after it has been dehydrated and placed into pills, a practice followed by those who believe the placenta carries health benefits for lactating mothers and their children.
“It’s an old-world thing, it comes from traditional Chinese medicine,” she said. “But the way I look at it is that this is the baby’s first home and it’s going straight back to the mom and baby.”
Ikuta said she offers a few different options for placenta encapsulation.
“Some people like to encapsulate it in pill form and I also make them into a powder that can be added to smoothies,” she said. “Some moms plant it under a tree, and some moms like a print of the placenta with the cord.”
Ikuta said she offers the prints in customized colors that can be made to match a nursery or mother’s request.
As for her qualifications, Ikuta said she worked a combined four years at the Birth Education Center in San Diego and the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, is trained by the International Placenta and Postpartum Association, is a lactation advocate, carries a Florida Food Handlers license and a separate Biologix certificate for placenta encapsulation specialists for handling blood-borne pathogens.