👶🏻Baby placentas were often disposed of after birth, but recently a great number of women have taken to eating placenta instead of having it disposed of.
Although this may come across as a gross and unwholesome practice, it is fast becoming a trend among newborn mothers.
The act of eating the placenta also referred to as placentophagy, used to be a core animal trait, but today tribal and contemporary women and even some popular female celebrities now eat their baby’s placenta as food.
They consume the placenta in the form of pills where the placenta is processed and encapsulated. Some women blend the raw tissue and add it to fruits or other ingredients to make a shake, while some women eat it fried or as an ingredient in various food recipes like placenta spaghetti. Women who are more daring choose to eat it raw.
With an increasing number of women adopting the practice of placentophagy and even more considering to join the trend, a whole lot of questions pertaining to the benefits and associated risks have been asked.
Read on to find out why this has become a trend and if this new modern-day cuisine is beneficial to the body or poses health risks.
WHAT IS THE PLACENTA?
The large internal organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus during pregnancy is called the placenta. It is usually found attached to the front, back, top or side of the uterus.
The stringy umbilical cord connects the placenta from the mother to the baby. The placenta is the medium through which oxygen and nutrients are passed on to the unborn baby from the mother.
It also filters out waste products, carbon dioxide and harmful substances from the baby’s blood. It produces hormones such as lactogen, progesterone, and estrogen that are required during pregnancy.
It separates the baby’s blood from the mother’s in order to protect the growing baby against infections. About five to thirty minutes after birth, the placenta is pushed out of the body by the newborn mother. In the case of a caesarian section, it is removed alongside the baby.
WHY DO WOMEN EAT PLACENTA?
The placenta is believed to be packed full of nutrients such as iron, vitamin B6, B12, fats, and proteins. It is also filled with reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone) which becomes insufficient in the body after birth.
The drop in these hormones after birth can contribute to postpartum depression (PPD). Some women feed on their baby’s placenta to avoid suffering from PPD.
Also, Some women claim that practicing placentophagy helps to increase their milk supply which makes breastfeeding easy. Others have reported an improvement in mood after taking placenta pills.
In 2013, researchers conducted a survey using 189 women that have experienced postnatal mood disorders, to find the effects of placentophagy on mood after birth.
About 40% of the women in the survey said their mood improved after taking the placenta. There have also been anecdotal accounts of the positive effects of the placenta in managing postnatal pain.
EATING YOUR PLACENTA PROS AND CONS
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EATING PLACENTA?
There is little to no scientific evidence to prove that eating placenta is beneficial to health. A few studies that used animal models have found a link between eating placenta with increased milk production and pain relief. But no studies have thoroughly explored the benefits and risks of eating human placenta.
Some animal studies have proved that placentophagy in animals can help some animals with labor pains, increased milk production, removal of newborn scent to protect against predators, and for the replenishment of nutrients that were lost during pregnancy and childbirth.
However, these are only shreds of evidence in animals, and there is no scientific backing to support the benefits of placentophagy in humans.
Although research has shown that heat-dried human placenta actually contains nutrients like fats, proteins, fiber and a variety of minerals, all of these nutrients can be found in wholesome foods, and their effects on the human body through the consumption of placenta is not known.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF EATING PLACENTA?
Eating your baby’s placenta after birth may pose more risks than benefits for you and your baby. The fact that there is no scientific research to measure the risks associated with its consumption is a cause for concern.
Eating it fresh or raw can increase your risk of contracting infections as the placenta may harbor some viruses and bacteria. Eating it in a processed form such as in pills or in cooked food may still not protect you from the risk of getting infected.
This is because these cooking processes may not be sufficient in killing the infectious microorganisms that may be contained in the placenta.
In line with this, the center for disease control and prevention (CDC) strictly warms against the consumption of placenta pills due after a mother who took placenta pills got infected with group B streptococcus (GBS), which she subsequently passed on to her child.
The CDC posits that the placenta was not properly heated to the temperature that was required to kill the bacterium.
Since there are no set standards and health guidelines for the proper processing of the raw tissue before encapsulation, the CDC advises that people should desist from taking placenta pills.
Also, a scientific review conducted by researchers from Northwestern University, school of medicine in Chicago found that there is very little evidence supporting the health benefits of placentophagy after assessing various existing human and animal placentophagy studies.
SHOULD YOU EAT YOUR BABY’S PLACENTA?
Despite the reported claims about the numerous benefits of eating placenta which may seem appealing, it is best to refrain from this practice.
This is major because scientists have not ruled out the possible risks associated with placentophagy. Moreso, the CDC specifically warns against the consumption of the pill form of the placenta which is even processed to a certain extent, how much more when consumed in it’s raw or under-processed form such as in shakes and some recipes.
The nutrients for which women take the placenta for is abundant in healthy foods and those can be consumed instead.
If you fear to get postpartum depression, there are safe and medically approved measures you can take to reduce your risks, such as making certain lifestyle changes and getting therapy.
If you must consume your baby’s placenta you should take the following steps to lower the risks of infection :
- Talk to your doctor and inform the hospital about your decision to consume your baby’s placenta so the placenta will be stored for you under hygienic conditions.
- If you want to take it in the form of pills, you can arrange for a midwife to prepare it for you. Most midwives are now skilled at processing placenta into pills, which is mostly dehydrated and ground into powder before encapsulating into vitamin sized pills.
- You can also send it to companies who professionally prepare placenta pills. However, you should note that there are no standard hygienic and sterile procedures guiding the preparation of the placenta and these companies may not be successful at completely eliminating existing infectious microorganisms contained in the placenta.
- Stop its consumption once you notice unusual changes in your body after taking it. In the case where PPD sets in, completely stop the intake of the placenta. Consult your doctor immediately for medical intervention.