Why Women Shouldn’t Eat Their Baby’s Placenta

Why Women Shouldn’t Eat Their Baby’s Placenta November 8, 2018

Many in the natural childbirth world advocate for eating their babies’ placentas. Individuals that consume the placenta argue that consuming the organ helps mothers with postpartum depression, hormone function, and increase vitamins and minerals like iron. Is consuming the placenta good for postpartum mothers, or is it flirting with cannibalism?

Advocates of placenta consumption point to several reasons for eating the organ. The placenta contains nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that feed the baby inside the womb. According to What to Expect, the placenta contains vitamins B6, B12, and iron.

Not only does the placenta contain vitamins and minerals, but the tissue is also loaded with the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Proponents of placenta consumption argue that eating the tissue increases the progesterone and estrogen levels in postpartum mothers. They theorize the hormones contained in the placenta reduce postpartum depression.

Other benefits touted by fans of the placenta suggest the tissue treats anemia, balances the hormones, and increases the milk supply of mothers.

At face value, all of these benefits sound great for the mother. She can fight off anemia from blood loss during delivery, increase her boob juice, and help herself feel better emotionally. Unfortunately, there isn’t much science to support the claims.

Placenta consumption has become so popular, especially in the United States, that doctors in Obstetrics and Gynecology released a statement on the practice. The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) published an 11-page article on their findings of eating the placenta.

In the article, the researchers reviewed a handful of studies on placenta consumption. Their conclusion is clear. There is no scientific benefit to eating the placenta. Instead, they point out that anecdotes shared about the positive effects are more than likely a result of placebo effect.

“We found that 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.”

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the study completed, outlined a case in Oregon. A mother’s child developed a serious infection because she admitted to consuming the placenta.

“In contrast to the belief of clinical benefits associated with human placentophagy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a warning due to a case in which a newborn infant developed recurrent neonatal group B Streptococcus sepsis after the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules containing Streptococcus agalactiae.”

Following the case with the mother, the CDC released a statement on consuming the placenta. The CDC stated there are no standards for placenta encapsulation outside of cooking the tissue at 130° for 121 to reduce Salmonella bacterial counts.

However, the CDC stated that cooking the placenta does not kill disease pathogens within the placenta.

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” the CDC states.

“Clinicians should inquire about a history of placenta ingestion in cases of late-onset GBS infection and educate mothers interested in placenta encapsulation about the potential risks.”

Dr. Alex Farr, author of the paper for the AGOJ, shared his thoughts on the practice of consuming the placenta.

Dr. Farr is a gynecologist at Austria’s Vienna University. In his statement on the practice, Farr said, “Medically speaking it’s a waste product. Most mammals eat it, but we can only guess why.”

Farr argues that the practice is common in mammals, but the method is not and has never been common for humans to consume. He stated the placenta is part of the newborn, and mothers that eat the placenta are bordering on cannibalism.

He added that the “presumed nutrients” in the placenta like zinc, iron, and selenium are not found to in high concentrations.

Even though the placenta doesn’t contain the nutrients and vitamins advocates tout, the practice continues to be popular in online support groups.

We found dozens of conversations in groups associated with natural childbirth discussing the benefits of placenta consumption. Additionally, we saw mothers exchange recipes for making placenta smoothies and encapsulating the placenta.

Based on the responses, eating the tissue can cause nausea and headaches. Additionally, several mothers shared the color of the placenta and smell grossed them out.

As long as celebrities are pushing the practice and midwives suggest placenta consumption to clients, mothers will continue to eat their babies’ placenta.

Scientific evidence doesn’t support any of the reported claims made by the advocates and companies that encapsulate the placenta.

Instead of flirting with cannibalism, doctors recommend working with your provider to discuss post-partum diet, supplements, and medications to treat post-partum depression.

Just because mammals eat their placentas doesn’t mean humans should eat their placentas.

Heck, dogs eat their poop, does that mean we should eat our poop too?

Oh, wait, that’s a post for another day.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tawreos

    I am not sure that anything that the body expels should be eaten or ingested in anyway. I think that animals may eat the placenta as a way to keep from advertising that there is a vulnerable member of the herd.

  • TinnyWhistler

    It’s also a way to recoup valuable protein and minerals that other mammals have a harder time getting back than we do. Either way, there’s no reason for humans to do it.

  • Jennny

    My midwife friend nearly gagged the first time she came across this in a UK hospital, a woman requesting her placenta was saved post partum as she had a good risotto recipe for it. Then there’s the fad for not cutting the placenta, but carrying it and baby round with you in a special bag – called lotus-something I recall…when you’ve lived a few years like I have…you wonder, ‘whatever next?’.

  • Fred Tully

    cannibalism anyone?

  • Kevin K

    Just proves there is no stupidity that cannot garner a hefty proportion of adherents if it is couched as being “all natural”.

  • that is called a Lotus-birth and they still do it

  • Coal is all natural – should we eat it!?

  • Jennny

    Yes, love it that something basically icky – and useless – and smelly if it takes a week to degrade – has been given such a beautiful name!

  • Kevin K

    People advocate drinking turpentine and eating activated charcoal. It’s one teensy step away.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Call it a “titan arum birth” instead. Or “rafflesia-birth.” Or “stapelia-birth”

  • TinnyWhistler

    I mean, technically eating charcoal can be helpful if you’ve poisoned yourself. What cracks me up is when someone who’s on regular medication ALSO takes charcoal as part of their daily regimen. it’s a bit counterproductive.

  • Tawreos

    Only the clean coal. =)

  • right!

  • Yes, Staph-birth!

  • Clancy

    Forty-ish years ago, friends of a friend of mine decided to save and eat the placenta. They made it into lasagna, and the father shared in it. They even offered some to our mutual friend, who unsurprisingly declined.

  • Clancy

    As are any number of plants that produce alkaloid poisons.

  • Tawreos

    That depends, what cut of meat is it and how is it prepared?

  • Tawreos

    And I thought veggie lasagna was the lowest lasagna could go

  • Clancy

    A friend of mine was making lasagna for a group, and added a layer of Beechnut Peppermint Gum. Seriously, I’ve had mushroom lasagna that was quite good.

  • Clancy

    The placentas I’ve seen resemble liver more than anything else, so maybe fried in bacon grease?

  • Tawreos

    Mushroom lasagna sounds good. Who in their right mind cooks with gum? I have never heard of such a thing and I was a chef once upon a time.

  • Tawreos

    Hush now, I was hoping to get invited to a baby BBQ. =)

  • Clancy

    They were playing a prank. The gum melted like cheese, and didn’t have enough flavor to really affect the lasagna, so i was told.

  • Clancy

    Side dish!

  • I’m still barfing a little thinking about placenta in a lasagna

  • Clancy

    My friend actually saw said lasagna and said it didn’t smell right.

  • WallofSleep

    “They made it into lasagna…”

    God damn it Clancy! I’m never eating lasagna again. I hope you’re fucking happy!

    😛

  • Yeah I love lasagna – and I’ve completely lost my appetite

  • Clancy

    More for meee!

  • Clancy

    A friend of mine chose to have her second child at home, so the disposal of the placenta became their responsibility. Her husband was going to bury it in the yard, but it was winter in the northeast US, and the ground was frozen hard, so he stuck it in the freezer in a clear plastic bag. How do I know this? I was visiting in the spring, and encountered it during a quest for ice cubes.

  • WallofSleep

    I’ll make you one, layered with ricotta and adult foreskins. Ooh, wait. Maybe I’ll just make you some cannoli instead.

  • Clancy

    Foreskin at one end? Like a pastry bag?

  • I have a picture of a fresh placenta. I debated sharing – but it was so gross

  • I normally love your comments. Right now I need to puke

  • Smart friend! Placenta is super red. I bet it looked weird too

  • Omg

  • Clancy

    I have a third placenta story (last one, promise). When my daughter was born, there was a problem and the placenta wouldn’t come out. The doctor had to go in and get it with a tool (never Google #2 banjo curette). Afterwards he reassembled the pieces and showed me what had gone wrong. I really didn’t need to know that badly. They let me stay in the room during the procedure because I don’t panic and I was helping Mrs Clancy keep calm.

  • Jennny

    Oh wow, I’m a passionate gardener, but had to google those 3 words…now have some new varieties of plants to put on my santa-list this year! So, thanks!

  • WallofSleep

    Hey, at least I didn’t post any pix.

  • Chamber

    There are so many levels of gross here that I don’t know where to begin. Just eww. Ewwwww!

  • persephone

    No, and hell no.

    I’m Pagan and I’ve read too many tales by women using their menstrual blood for anointing tools and such. Hoark!

    It’s a waste product. It’s dead.

    Also, URINE IS NOT STERILE. IT’S A WASTE PRODUCT. STAAAAAAAHP!!!

  • OMG. NO! Hell no is my blood being used for anything but hanging out in a tampon

  • Anat

    Foreskins go with penne.

  • Chamber

    They make you drink charcoal if you overdose on pills. I’m bipolar & years ago I had suicidal tendencies (not the band) & swallowed an entire bottle of pills. I had to drink the sludgy charcoal abomination twice to absorb the pills. Thankfully I found the right doctor & with her help & proper medication I’ve been much better since. The point is charcoal sludge is the worst flavor ever & I don’t recommend it. If you’re using char with medication the charcoal absorbs it thereby preventing your medications from doing their job. You can’t do both & expect it to work.

  • B.E. Miller

    Careful with that “dogs either their own poop” comment… you might start something.

  • B.E. Miller

    Plus, don’t animals eat raw meat more often than we do, and have microbes or other natural defenses that we don’t. We eat raw meat with bacteria in it, we get sick. I’m not sure most mammals get sick.

  • B.E. Miller

    Glad to hear that you’ve got the right doctor and medications, and are doing much better. Thank the FSM for modern medicine, and good doctors!

  • B.E. Miller

    Oooo, Donner-Reed style BBQ!

  • B.E. Miller

    Way way back, I torment a “new” daddy by showing some pictures from a fellow co-worker’s biology book. She was into some nursing or medical program, and had one of those “hardcore” biology book. (I was taking the “soft-core” biology aka biology for non-science majors.)

    It was so amusing to see him convulse at the pictures of a newly ‘hatched’ baby human. I mean, it really was gross. All covered in fluid and a bit of blood.

    But I did it to prepare him for what it’s going to look like in the delivery room. Because I have heard stories of husbands fainting on seeing the baby when it pops out.

  • Chamber
  • B.E. Miller

    Well, I did hear of women wanting to send their used tampons to some politicians, but you really shouldn’t send bloodied items through the mail, as it’s considered a bio-hazard.
    https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a8480433/texas-women-protest-used-tampons/
    Now I’m thinking of that Periods for Pence thing.

  • valleycat1

    I have had a few outpatient minor surgeries with local anesthesia where the doctor immediately presented the tissue for me to take a look at what he just removed from my body. Erm, no.

  • Geoff Hamer

    Thank you for pointing out it’s the BABIES placenta!!

    I see so many of these crunchy Moms going on about eating THEIR placenta.

    As a male placental mammal, I demand recognition that I once had a placenta organ.

    Bloody cannibals.