The truth about eating placentas

The truth about eating placentas

It may be trendy, but is it safe?

A recent review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology sought to answer this about placentophagy: the practice of eating the placenta after childbirth.

“The function of the placenta is to provide nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood from the mom to the baby,” says Dr. Melissa Dennis, an obstetrician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “It also simultaneously removes fetal metabolic waste.”

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian have helped spark this conversation about the placenta, which can be consumed raw, cooked, dehydrated, in capsule form or even in smoothies.

Dr. Dennis says most women who request to take their placenta home believe it will help prevent post-partum depression, increase milk supply, decrease post-partum bleeding and increase energy. However, she cautions that human studies have not been shown to support these ideas. In addition to a lack of scientific evidence proving the benefits, a new case suggests there may be risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reviewed a case of an infant who developed a recurrent, life-threatening infection. The same strain of the infection suffered by the baby was found in placental capsules the mother had been ingesting.

“That particular case is only one instance, but it is eye opening,” says Dr. Dennis. “The dangers of ingesting one’s placenta are largely infectious. There is no standardization in how placentas or capsules are prepared, and many methods do not reach sufficient temperatures for a long enough period of time to kill the majority of bacteria that could be present.”

“I would advise anyone to really look at risks and benefits and take caution when ingesting placental capsules,” says Dr. Dennis.

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  1. This is a disgusting article and should not have been published. Is this the content that Advocate believes its readers are interested in? Very poor judgement.

    • Bud, I know when I originally heard of this I thought the same. Unfortunately it is becoming a popular practice so I do think it is important for health care workers, patients, and families to be informed, which is what this site is all about.
      I would suggest that if an article is of no interest to you that you may then refrain from reading. As a nurse and a nursing instructor I found this beneficial to my students and practice.
      (although I have no intention of ever eating placenta!)

    • when I was younger, I heard about this, but none of the problems associated with it. I think it was good to detail the problems, to keep young women safe (I don’t think “Bud” is at all involved). some of the questioned answered apply to you and some don’t, if they don’t, just pass on by. advocate is informative, and appreciated, especially by me.

    • I’m with Bud because informative articles are not one-sided. ONE instance of a bacterial infection that was also present in the placenta- how do we know it was not passed down during childbirth (like in my sister’s case), and so found in both baby and mother’s placenta? What about just even a mention about WHY someone would opt to consume their placenta like the rest of the mammalian world? With the same reasoning that this article uses , one can say not eating it is probably more unnatural and more unhealthy than eating it, because one mom that did NOT eat her placenta had post partum depression, or had trouble producing milk, or had low energy, or her baby had a bacterial infection. I’m not into these articles either. They’re scare tactics against anyone who deviates from the most mundane middle america conventions, as if those are healthy (all kinds of other questionable medication is prescribed to women while pregnant without as much concern as this article had for women who take their placental pills.. )

  2. The way some young people are influenced by Hollywood and some of the dizzy stars is appalling hence I commend you for bringing forth a common sense side to the question. Thank you and keep up the good you do

  3. Carol Huntsinger October 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm · Reply

    Obviously, all Advocate patients are not interested in the content. But–This article is important for expectant mothers, who might have been influenced by Kim Kardashian. This is also important for medical personnel, social workers, expectant fathers etc. who might be dealing with expectant mothers who are entertaining the idea of eating placenta. It is an unsafe practice and should be discouraged.

  4. Believe it or not, this information is relative. I work in this industry and there is a fair amount of people that think the placenta is magic. Other than stem cell retrieval, which is better satisfied with umbilical cord blood or umbilical cord tissue, I would choose to discard it as medical waste. Thanks for the article!

  5. The truth is that it is cannibalism. If you eat the decidua tissue (maternal side) you are eating yourself. If you eat the villi and membranes then you are eating a part of your baby! The placenta is a nutrient and waste exchanger not a repository of awesome. I hate it when people will counter with, “but in nature many female animals will eat the placenta to reabsorb the lost nutrients….” Well guess what, they also walk around naked and poop in the open! My only hope is they don’t start doing that too!

  6. I heard of animals in the wild doing this. It is reasoned they do it to protect their young from predators. If there is an after birth, predatory animals know that the vulnerable young are present.

    It is my impression that humans are a higher species. Some could reason that eating the placenta is tantamount to cannibalism.

  7. With the advancements of science, is it possible down the road for the placenta to have any medical benefits as the umbilical cord today?

    Can you please do an article on saving the umbilcal cord. As a future grandmother, this would be a great gift. Something many new parents can’t afford, which can be life saving down the road.

  8. Great article..very on point to the latest trend and possible source of infection/danger for all. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!! Moral is to research for self..Thanx

  9. ….. and for those of you who love the Bible, read the latter part of Deuteronomy chapter 27. You will find that eating the “after birth“ was not a blessing from God, but a curse. A curse for disobedience.

  10. When my wife and I had our sun. We both ate the placenta after a short prayer. We know that the LORD dint have a problem with it since our sun is now a healthy 12 years old.

  11. There are many practices out there that consumers jump on without any adequate research. Sorry if some find it “disgusting” but social media has proven to be an excellent form of education …and myths. I would prefer to hear from a respected physician rather than the a Kardashian’s. Some of the consequences of these fads can be life threatening for newborns!

About the Author

Brittany Hunter
Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. She has a degree in Journalism from Ohio University and experience in communications, marketing and public strategies. She loves going to concerts, reading and exploring the city.