What are celebrity moms adding to their diet these days to avoid postpartum depression? No, not apples and oranges; their own placenta! To them, dried, powdered and encapsulated placenta is a wonder pill that not just takes care of postpartum depression but reportedly regulates the post-pregnancy hormones, thereby improving their mood and giving more energy.
The placenta or afterbirth is a cushion-like organ that develops in a pregnant woman’s uterus to supply nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. It also helps remove the waste matter produced by the fetus. It is removed after childbirth and in most cultures, it is discarded thereafter.1 2
Eating The Placenta Has Never Been Standard Practice Among Humans
However, eating the placenta or placentophagy is a huge fad among celebrities now. But, contrary to popular belief, placentophagy is rare in human history and across the cultures. Animals instinctively eat their placenta for its nutritional benefits for the mother and to prevent predators from locating the offspring but it’s not natural for human beings to do that.3
To gauge the popularity of the practice, an online survey was conducted on a population with 78.7 percent women and 19.9 percent men. The result showed that 66 percent of the participants had heard about the practice but only 3.3 percent had actually eaten the placental tissue, proving that it is a rare practice among the general population.4
Having said that, the minority that has eaten placenta has popularized it so much that it is not that difficult to get your placenta encapsulated for consumption anymore.
Anecdotal Evidence Suggests Eating Your Own Placenta Has Benefits
People who have eaten their placenta attributes many benefits to it. But there is very little scientific evidence to prove it. Postpartum, women consume placenta in various forms, encapsulated, cooked, and even raw.5 Supporters of placentophagy believe that eating the placenta can:
- Replenish the iron lost during childbirth since the placenta is rich in iron
- Help in pain relief after delivery as it produces placental opioid-enhancing factor or POEF, which has a pain-relieving effect
- Stimulate milk production, thanks to the hormone placental lactogen
- Help with postpartum depression, thanks to the hormones progesterone and corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH6
Studies Have Not Found Any Conclusive Benefits Of Eating The Placenta
However, studies investigating the health benefits of placentophagy, including facilitating uterine contraction, resumption of normal estrogen cycle, and milk production, have been found to be inconclusive.7
In Fact, There Are Health Risks Linked To Eating The Placenta
While the fad is catching on, experts believe there are risks involved. Here are some:
Infection Due To Contamination
Placenta is like any other meat. If it’s not stored well, it could spoil fast. During the process of delivering a baby and taking care of him or her, how do you ensure your placenta is safely stored?
Also, the job of placenta is to act as a filter keeping dangerous things away from the baby. Have you thought of the possibility of these toxic elements still lurking in the placenta? Moreover, there are many body fluids involved during childbirth. Most women defecate and urinate during labor and vagina is not sterile making contamination of placenta a huge possibility.
Contagious Illnesses Due To Consumption Of Another’s Placenta
Eating others’ placenta or sharing yours with others is a big no-no because it is a sure shot way to spread illnesses like HIV and hepatitis.
Loss Of Nutrition During Preservation Or Preparation
Placenta is often consumed cooked or dehydrated. There is a possibility of nutrition getting lost in the process. What if all your effort is for nothing at all? And lastly, what if it tastes so bad you want to throw up?
Take Appropriate Measures If You Want To Try The Placenta
While no study has so far been able to prove the benefits of eating placenta, anecdotal evidence of its benefits cannot be ignored completely. If you must eat your placenta, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- If you intend to consume your placenta, check with your hospital beforehand if their birthing policy supports it. Many hospitals treat the placenta as biohazardous waste and discard it immediately.
- Since the placenta could spoil fast, you should make arrangements to freeze it or cook it without delay.
- In case you feel eating the placenta is not agreeing with your body, stop it right away.
|↑1||The Fetal Life-Support System: Placenta, Umbilical Cord, & Amniotic Sac. APA.|
|↑2||Donnelly, Leo, and Gillian Campling. “Functions of the placenta.” Anaesthesia & intensive care medicine 9, no. 3 (2008): 124-127.|
|↑3, ↑6||Salas, Elizabeth. “The Organ-Eating Obsession: Putting Placenta On Your Plate.”|
|↑4||Cremers, Gwendolyn E., and Kathryn Graff Low. “Attitudes toward placentophagy: A brief report.” Health care for women international 35, no. 2 (2014): 113-119.|
|↑5||Placenta Encapsulation. APA.|
|↑7||Coyle, Cynthia W., Kathryn E. Hulse, Katherine L. Wisner, Kara E. Driscoll, and Crystal T. Clark. “Placentophagy: therapeutic miracle or myth?.” Archives of women’s mental health 18, no. 5 (2015): 673-680.|