Placentophagy – or eating a placenta – has become a trend over the past several years, alongside the reinvigoration of midwifery, natural childbirth practices and attachment parenting. While we wholly endorse all three of those, we do not endorse the practice of eating the placenta after childbirth.
Studies Show There is No Benefit to Eating Your Placenta
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how or when the practice of placentophagy in the United States emerged. You’ll hear people talk about how the animal kingdom does it, or how other cultures do it, etc. However, there are many things the animal kingdom does that we humans don’t, and the research shows that actually – very few, ancient cultures have ever made eating the placenta a regular phenomenon – and the majority of them were plagued by famine. More importantly, the current scientific research regarding this practice has found:
…there is no scientific evidence of any clinical benefit of placentophagy among humans, and no placental nutrients and hormones are retained in sufficient amounts after placenta encapsulation to be potentially helpful to the mother postpartum.
In fact, because of the lack of quality control in the various ways the placenta is prepared – dehydrated, encapsulated, raw, cooked, roasted, blended into smoothie or drink form, etc. – there is actually more risk than benefit. Among other things, the placenta is a filter for toxins, removed from the fetus’s body while in utero. Furthermore, the longer this new fad continues, the more risks and dangers of eating the placenta have emerged.
Eating Your Placenta Poses Potential Risks Outweighing Any Benefits
In addition to holding on to certain bacteria that can infect you and your baby (like the newborn infant who developed recurring streptococcus B sepsis, linked back to the placenta capsules the baby’s mother took each day), inadequate heating and preparation methods make both mother and baby susceptible to disease and infection. These include HIV, harmful bacteria, hepatitis, Zika and other infectious pathogens.
The study’s author, Dr. Amos Grunebaum, an obstetrician/gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, “As obstetricians, it’s important to tell the truth. And the truth is it’s potentially harmful and no evidence it’s beneficial, so therefore, don’t do it.”
Consider Other Ways to Gain Equal Health Benefits & to Honor the Placenta
Some of the health benefits associated with placentophagy include preventing post-partum depression, boosting moods and energy, encouraging breastmilk to come in, and others. Fortunately, we have remedies for all of those things that don’t include putting you and your baby’s health at risk.
Most hospitals here in the Washington areas are open to sending parents home with their baby’s placenta if that is a part of your birth plan. However, instead of eating it, we recommend finding another way to honor the organ that helped to hold you and your baby together, and that nourished your baby throughout its development. For many, this is as simple as burying it in a container (if you’re a renter) or in the backyard – or another sacred spot – and planting a tree or perennial plant in your baby’s honor. That is a beautiful and risk-free way to use the placenta after birth without risk to you or your child.
Contact Overlake and work with a labor and delivery team that is wholly dedicated to your health and well-being both before, during and after labor and delivery.