Are There Any Benefits Of Eating Your Placenta?

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Are There Any Benefits Of Eating Your Placenta?

Eating placenta, mostly in powdered and pilled forms, is a big fad now with celebrity moms endorsing its various benefits like combating postpartum depression, replenishing the lost iron from childbirth, and enhanced milk production. While no research has so far proved its benefits for health, experts believe experiences of users cannot be brushed aside.

What are celebrity moms adding to their diet these days to avoid postpartum depression? No, not apples and oranges; it’s their own placenta! To them, dried, powdered and encapsulated placenta is a wonder pill that not just takes care of postpartum depression, but reportedly regulates the hormones thereby improving the mood and giving more energy.

But How Far Is The Claim True?

Before we delve into it, let’s see what placenta actually is. We all know it to be the bloody wobbly mass that provides all the nourishment to the baby while it is in the womb and is expelled from the womb in a process called after-birth. What we may not know is, it is the life support for the baby in the womb. The small blood vessels in the placenta carry both maternal blood–with oxygen and nutrients–to the fetal blood and fetal blood–with waste products–to the maternal blood. This trade-off happens through placenta without the blood supplies not getting mixed.1

The placenta is also an important endocrine organ that performs respiratory, nutritive and excretory functions as the fetus develops.2

Is Eating Placenta The Latest Fad?

Eating placenta or placentophagy is a huge fad among celebrities now. Contrary to popular belief, placentophagy is rare in human history and across the cultures. Animals instinctively eat their placenta for its nutritional benefits for the mother and to prevent predators from locating the offsprings but it’s not natural for human beings to do that.3

In a study done to gauge the popularity of the practice, an online survey was conducted on a population with 78.7 percent women and 19.9 percent men. The result showed that 66 percent of the participants had heard about the practice but only 3.3 percent had actually eaten the placental tissue proving that it is a rare practice among the general population.4 Having said that, the minority that has eaten placenta has popularized it so much that it is not that difficult to get your placenta encapsulated for consumption anymore.

Are There Any Benefits Of Eating Your Placenta?

People who have eaten their placenta attributes many benefits to it. But there is very little scientific evidence to prove it. Postpartum women consume placenta in various forms–encapsulated, cooked and even raw–for probable benefits like pain relief, replacing the iron lost during childbirth, regulating hormones, relief from postpartum depression and for enhanced milk production.5

  • Supporters of placentophagy believe that since placenta is rich in iron, it can replenish the iron lost during childbirth.
  • Placenta also produces placental opioid-enhancing factor or POEF which is believed to help in pain relief after delivery.
  • It also contains the hormone placental lactogen which may stimulate milk production.
  • The hormones progesterone and corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH in it is believed to help with postpartum depression.6

However, Studies investigating the health benefits of placentophagy including facilitating uterine contraction, resumption of normal cyclic estrogen cycle, and milk production have been found to be inconclusive.7

Are There Any Risks Involved In The Consumption Of Placenta?

While the fad is catching on, experts believe there are risks involved. Here are some:

Preservation

Placenta is like any other meat. If it’s not stored well, it could get spoilt fast. During the process of delivering a baby and taking care of him, how do you ensure your placenta is safely stored?

Contamination

The job of placenta is to act as a filter keeping dangerous things away from the baby. Have you thought of the possibility of these toxic elements still lurking in the placenta? Moreover, there are many body fluids involved during childbirth. Most women defecate and urinate during labor and vagina is not sterile making contamination of placenta a huge possibility.

Illnesses

Eating others’ placenta or sharing yours with others is a big no-no because it is a sure shot way to spread illnesses like HIV and hepatitis.

Nutrition Loss

Placenta is often consumed cooked or dehydrated. There is a possibility of nutrition getting lost in the process. What if all your effort is for nothing at all? And lastly, what if it tastes so bad you want to throw up?

But You Like The Idea, Don’t You?

While no study has so far been done to prove the benefits of eating placenta, anecdotal evidence of its benefits cannot be ignored completely. If you must eat your placenta, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • If you intend to consume your placenta, check with your hospital beforehand if their birthing policy supports it. Many hospitals treat placenta as biohazardous waste and discard it immediately.
  • Since placenta could get spoilt fast, you should make arrangements to freeze it or cook it without delay.
  • In case you feel eating placenta is not agreeing with your body, stop it right away.

References   [ + ]

1.The Fetal Life-Support System: Placenta, Umbilical Cord, & Amniotic Sac. APA.
2.Donnelly, Leo, and Gillian Campling. “Functions of the placenta.” Anaesthesia & intensive care medicine 9, no. 3 (2008): 124-127.
3, 6.Salas, Elizabeth. “The Organ-Eating Obsession: Putting Placenta On Your Plate.”
4.Cremers, Gwendolyn E., and Kathryn Graff Low. “Attitudes toward placentophagy: A brief report.” Health care for women international 35, no. 2 (2014): 113-119.
5.Placenta Encapsulation. APA.
7.Coyle, Cynthia W., Kathryn E. Hulse, Katherine L. Wisner, Kara E. Driscoll, and Crystal T. Clark. “Placentophagy: therapeutic miracle or myth?.” Archives of women’s mental health 18, no. 5 (2015): 673-680.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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