A few years ago, in a 2009 issue of TIME Magazine, an article about a woman who decided to eat her own placenta after the birth of her and the author’s child was featured.
The writer, Joel Stein, said that for 275 dollars a woman would come to their house, cook the placenta, freeze-dry it and turn it into capsules to help stave off postpartum depression and increase milk supply.
Of course, she’s not the only one doing this. Many women – and even some husbands – are consuming placenta, most often in the form of a smoothie. The technical term for this is placentophagy. The reasoning behind this practice is that there are substances in the placenta that can help relieve postpartum pain and stimulate mother-baby bonding.
One health blogger recently wrote about doing this: eating a smoothie made with strawberries, hemp, bananas and placenta. He noted that he and his wife dried her placenta after their baby was born in May, and since she was eating it, he thought he might as well try it too.
A placenta does contain lots of essential nutrients, with some of the purported benefits including helping to balance hormones, restore iron levels, reduce postnatal bleeding, increase milk production, improve mental health and boost energy. Many people have noted experiencing these benefits and “feeling great” after consuming dried placenta.
There are literally dozens of placenta encapsulation specialists that can be found online, more than willing to transform your placenta into capsules, usually for a hefty price. Many believe in the powers of the placenta to help balance out hormonal fluctuations that play a role in postpartum depression, often referring to the fact that most mammals consume their placentas after giving birth as proof that the practice is normal and natural. It has also been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries.
On the other hand, most traditional and alternative health experts, including renowned alternative medicine proponents Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weil, are extremely skeptical about the practice. While there is likely no harm in consuming it, the cooking process destroys proteins and hormones, and the drying or freezing process destroys the other ingredients. Of course, animals that consume the placenta eat it raw.
According to fact-checking site AfricaCheck.org, there are no double-blind placebo controlled studies to back up any of the claims made about the benefits of eating placenta, although there is no shortage of anecdotal accounts of its effectiveness. Just believing it works may be enough to provide a positive outcome, the site notes. And, while not proven, some women have reported rare side effects like mood swings, stomach cramps, headaches and digestive problems after taking the capsules.
Dr. Weil says, “the modest quantities of beneficial substances that would survive cooking, freeze-drying and dividing the dosage would, in my view, have virtually no effect.” He recommends eating cold-water fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, herring and sardines, and/or supplementing with a high quality fish oil instead. This provides important omega-3 fatty acids which are often depleted during pregnancy as the nutrient is taken up by the fetus, particularly by the fetal brain tissue.
Also, as Dr. Weil notes, 120 fish oil capsules cost a lot less than 275 dollars.
-The Alternative Daily