An Oregon mother consumed encapsulated placenta and infected her newborn baby multiple times with Group B Strep. A Notes from the Field case study about the woman appeared on the Centers for Disease Control website in 2017. Despite the warning two years ago about consuming encapsulated placentas, companies still offer the products and women still consume their placenta.
In Notes from the Field Study, the authors outlined a case of a mother that infected her newborn twice with Group B Strep. According to the report, the mother gave birth in September 2016. A routine vaginal exam of the mother at 37 weeks was negative for Group B Strep.
Despite her negative swab for GBS, the baby began to show signs of respiratory distress after their birth. Doctors transferred the baby to the neonatal intensive care unit with a tentative sepsis diagnosis. A culture taken from the blood of the infant provided a positive result for penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate GBS.
When doctors learned of the GBS culture, they started the infant on antibiotics. After an eleven day treatment of antibiotics, doctors discharged the infant home.
Only three days later, the mother brought the infant to an emergency department at another hospital for irritability. Doctors admitted the infant into the hospital. Again, a blood culture revealed a positive result for penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate GBS.
A hospital lab tested the infant’s cerebral spinal fluid, and the mother’s expressed breast milk, and both were negative for GBS. Without a source for the secondary infection, doctors started to search for other options.
After three days in the second hospital, a physician from the birth hospital contacted the second hospital to share information that might help them. The physician at the birth hospital said the mother requested her placenta after her birth. She told doctors that she planned to encapsulate the placenta.
Learning the new information, the physicians from the second hospital spoke with the mother. She confirmed that she hired a company to encapsulate her placenta.
Additionally, she admitted that she was taking two capsules of the placenta three times a day. The mother said she began taking the placenta capsules three days after the birth of her child.
Immediately, doctors instructed the mother to stop consuming the placenta capsules. Then the doctors took a sample of the pills to the lab for testing. As expected, the placenta capsules tested positive for GBS.
For the second GBS infection, the baby needed several rounds of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. After fourteen days of multiple antibiotics, doctors discharged the baby home.
An analysis of the cultures from the baby’s blood and the placenta capsules revealed the same GBS infection. The infections had the same profile and same sequence. Due to the similarities, doctors determined the baby contracted the GBS from the mother. She passed the bacteria to her baby by consuming the GBS infected placenta capsules.
After the CDC published the study in 2017, they advised against the consumption of placenta capsules. The CDC warned that there is no standard for processing placentas for eating.
While many companies heat the placenta to 130 Fahrenheit and cook for 121 minutes, the heat is not high enough to kill strep infections. The temperature of 130 degrees can kill Salmonella.
Because several bacteria infections are not killed by heating, the CDC warned women that consuming encapsulated placenta is dangerous. Additionally, the CDC instructed doctors to inform women about the risks associated with placenta consumption.
Women that consume the placenta believe that the placenta contains hormones and vitamins to assist in their post-partum recovery. However, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology debunked the theories pushed by companies that process placentas.Companies and midwives that promote placenta encapsulation say that the capsules contain progesterone and estrogen. Additionally, they believe the capsules also contain high levels of iron and B12. However, the study by AJOG indicated that no traceable amounts of vitamins or hormones remain in the placenta after encapsulation.
Due to the finding by the AJOG, many women now will eat the placenta raw or cook the placenta and drink in a smoothie. Both means of consuming the placenta are dangerous. The raw placenta will expose the mother to a host of bacterial infections that can transfer to the infant.
The baby in the CDC case spent nearly a month in the hospital because of their mother’s false belief about placenta consumption. GBS infections in babies can be fatal. Even though her baby developed a GBS infection after birth, the mother continued to consume the placenta.
To date, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports the claims that placenta consumption will improve hormone and vitamin levels in women. What is known is that eating the placenta can transfer infections from the mother to the baby. Additionally, there is the ick factor of consuming a waste product of the infant.
No culture in the world has ever eaten the placenta following birth. The popular trend appears to be another woo-filled experiment by the crunchy community to use “natural” remedies to treat medical conditions.
A better bet for women is to work with their doctors after their birth. Doctors can prescribe iron, multi-vitamins, and anti-depressants if needed. Postpartum depression should not be treated with placenta consumption. In fact, eating the placenta could prevent the mother from receiving help from a doctor to manage her symptoms.
While there is no information about the baby today, I genuinely hope the hospital reported the mother to child protective services. She could use a class or 400 on parenting.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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