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.
About the Author
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.