New research finds no benefits in eating placenta
With mommy bloggers and celebrities like January Jones, Kourtney Kardashian and Alicia Silverstone touting the benefits of consuming their placenta after childbirth, this practice has become increasingly popular among new moms looking to combat postpartum depression and tap into a number of other potential health gains.
Women choosing to eat their own placenta—a practice called placentophagy—have reported a number of benefits, including better mood, less fatigue, reduced pain after delivery and a boost in milk production. However, the health impact of placentophagy is up for debate, according to a study published last week in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health.
Researchers found that, while many women have reported what they perceive to be benefits from placentophagy, there is not any solid research to support its health benefits for humans. In fact, researchers concluded that placentophagy does not protect women from postpartum depression, reduce post-delivery pain, boost energy, help with lactation, promote skin elasticity, enhance maternal bonding nor replenishes iron in the body.
“Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves or their nursing infants,” said Cynthia Coyle, lead author and a psychologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in a news release.
Researchers are also concerned about inconsistent dosing and lack of regulation about how placenta is stored and prepared, which may pose risks to moms and their nursing babies. No studies have been published that look at the risks of this practice.
Most mammals consume their placenta after giving birth, and human placentophagy dates back to the 1970s in the United States and much earlier in other parts of the world, but physicians are noting an uptick in women asking about this practice in recent years. Many women choosing to consume placenta are ingesting it in the form of capsules that contain dehydrated placenta, but there are other options out there, including raw or cooked placenta and even placenta smoothies.
“As with any decision related to your pregnancy, if you’re interested in placentophagy, it’s important to talk with your provider about the potential benefits and risks and determine if it’s right for you,” says Dr. Melissa Dennis, an obstetrician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
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