There are many ancient traditions that have played major roles in the development of modern society. When it comes to food, technology, and even medicine, tradition has played a very important role in shaping who and what humanity is today. Placentophagy or the act of consuming one’s own placenta is not an uncommon practice. In actuality, humans are among the only mammals that don’t readily face the urge to engage in this behavior. However, there are a growing number of mothers who are willing to give this practice a try based on ancient traditional practices (and the word of celebrities like Kim Kardashian) and its growing popularity among people of all backgrounds.
There isn’t just one way to consume the placenta. There are dozens of ways – you can fry it (yes, fry it!), dry it out and consume it in pill form, or even eat it raw. There are some people who are drawn to this practice because of its reported benefits for the mother like youthfulness, energy boosts, and a positive mood. While others are drawn to it because of how it can help the baby through increased breast milk production. Regardless of the reason, there seems to be quite a bit of appeal. Although there are many rumored benefits, there isn’t much evidence available to suggest that placentophagy is good for the mother. In fact, there are some healthcare professionals who would advise against it for that very reason. Along with the fact that a mom eating her own placenta just doesn’t sound very alluring, here are 14 other reasons why it’s not a good idea to take a bite of afterbirth.
15 It’s Not Scientifically Proven To Raise Energy Levels
One of the reasons that some people advocate for eating the placenta after birth is that it could potentially raise your energy levels. After giving birth, moms are in need of vital nutrients that they’ve lost. One nutrient is iron. To get this boost, some new moms opt for eating their own placenta, which is supposed to be high in iron. According to an article by Health.com, no studies have revealed that eating the placenta actually boosts iron or energy.
Some new mothers do feel that their energy and certain nutrients are returned after consuming the placenta, but there currently isn’t much in the way of research to support their findings. Some skeptics even regard certain feelings as a part of a “placebo effect” where just the act of consuming placenta gives mothers a false sense of wellness. Other women recall feeling the complete opposite after consuming their placenta. While there very well may be some benefits to eating the afterbirth, this may not be one of them.
14 It’s Not Scientifically Proven To Increase Breastmilk Production
This next benefit of placentophagy has also played a big role in its growing popularity. Another belief about consuming placenta is that it will lead to an increase in milk production. Advocates claim that consuming the placenta can increase milk production by increasing lactose and protein in the milk supply. However, like lost things on this list, there hasn’t been enough research to verify that this is true.
There are also people who claim that the placenta can actually cause a decrease in breast milk production and causes an uncomfortable breastfeeding experience. Breastmilk production is obviously a natural part of pregnancy and new motherhood, but there are no studies that prove either of these claims to be true. Mothers concerned about milk production should contact a medical professional before resorting to placentophagy to help remedy the problem.
13 Eating Raw Placenta Could Spread Infection
As with anything that has been exposed to bodily fluids, there is the potential for contamination and infection. There are many different ways that the placenta can be consumed. Some women prefer to use capsules, others prefer to cook it or eat it raw. Regardless of how it is consumed, there can be serious health risks that come with consuming the placenta. One of the obvious risks is the possibility of getting sick.
The placenta is an organ and just like most organs and animal parts, it is susceptible to infection and disease. It can be quite harmful if consumed raw. Also, there could be any manner of bacteria in the placenta due to an infection or bacteria located in the mother’s bloodstream. If this is the case and a mother or someone else consumes an infected placenta, the mother could obviously fall ill or cause someone else to get sick.
12 Placenta Capsules Could Go Bad
For mothers who’d rather not eat their placenta but would give placenta pills a go, they might want to reconsider. Placenta pills are a capsulated form of the mother’s placenta. It is the process in which the placenta is steamed and dehydrated. Then it is ground up and placed in capsules to be consumed by the mother. According to Americanpregnancy.org, the capsules can be taken shortly after a woman gives birth, during her period or even during menopause as a way to ward off some of the symptoms associated with menopause.
One of the biggest risks a mother runs with consuming placenta pills is the risk of getting sick from pills that weren’t made properly. There is a possibility that the pills could become contaminated at some point during the assembly process. There is also a chance that the pills could go bad after, and this could cause illness. Along with this fact, some placenta pills contain additional “herbs” or medicines that could pose health risks to the mother as well.
11 Maybe You’ll Feel Better, But Maybe Not
Postpartum blues is a normal part of pregnancy and motherhood. But, placentophagy is rumored to aid in reducing the effects of the baby blues. This is another common belief that may or may not have some truth behind it (not enough research). If there were, it would most certainly be more appealing to new mothers, as one in seven mothers experience/have experienced depression after giving birth.
According to an article by CNN, a 2013 study showed that 40 percent of women who participated in placentophagy said that they felt better or felt good after consuming their placenta. However, medical professionals note that it might make the mother feel better, but then again it might not (the placebo effect is a real thing, see below). It’s always the mom’s decision, but she should consider the fact that it may or may not improve her mood after giving birth.
10 Many Animals Do It, But Humans Don’t Have To
Placentophagy is a practice that can be dated back to ancient Chinese medicine rituals. However, this practice has begun to gain traction in the Western world as of late. Many advocates argue that it is a practice that is natural and has various benefits for the mom and the baby. However, experts have emphasized the fact that while this may not be an uncommon practice for humans, it is not something that is necessary for the mother’s recovery post-pregnancy, nor is it vital to the health of the baby.
There are many animals that engage in placentophagy based off of natural instinct such as cats and rats. The act of consuming the placenta, especially while giving birth to the rest of a litter, can help relieve pain during birth. This is a natural act that many animals feel the urge to do, but it is not something that humans have to do or do instinctively. A mother doesn’t have to consume her placenta to recover properly. If she doesn’t want to consume her placenta she doesn’t have to do so.
9 Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Bad
If you’ve ever heard the phrase too much of a good thing can be bad, then it’s easily understood why consuming the hormones and other substances found in the placenta can be harmful and not helpful. The placenta is a marvelous organ that provides a variety of functions for mom and baby. It is responsible for providing nourishment and filtering out waste from the baby. It is also partly responsible for the two hormones produced during pregnancy: estrone, and progesterone. It may even contain certain levels of oxytocin. These hormones are an essential part of helping a woman regulate different bodily functions during pregnancy.
However, consuming these hormones through the placenta postpartum could do more harm than good. Some women have reported feeling jittery, a known side effect of placentophagy. Others have reported serious mood swings not tied to postpartum depression. The extra hormones possibly found in the placenta could also increase the risks of cancer and other illnesses caused by the overproduction of hormones.
8 Contamination Is Possible
As stated above, one of the functions of the placenta is to filter out wastes and keep toxins from the baby. One of its functions is as a filter. One that many moms resort to eating post-pregnancy, making it a potential health hazard.
Even after giving birth, there is the possibility of contamination. Even the cleanest hospitals can’t guarantee that there won’t be an issue with contamination after birth. The birthing process is messy and the chances are that the placenta will come in contact with quite a few of the mother’s bodily fluids. Making it difficult to guarantee that anything the placenta comes in contact with is 100 percent sterile. This obviously makes the placenta more susceptible to infection. Even in the case that it doesn’t become infected during birth, mothers who make the decision to encapsulate their placentas run the chance of having the placenta infected during the process of encapsulation.
7 You Could Get Sick Or Get Someone Else Sick
If someone decided to consume all of the dirt and gunk found in a water filter, it might produce similar effects to what could potentially happen if someone decided to eat the placenta, especially an infected one. As it has been discussed already in this article, sickness is a very real possibility for anyone who consumes placenta. The placenta is a filter, and anything that passes through the mother’s body could possibly find its way to the placenta. This goes for the good and the bad things.
If a mother has an infection in her bloodstream, there’s a possibility that the infection could spread to the placenta. If that occurs, it wouldn’t be the smartest idea to consume the afterbirth. And, it certainly wouldn’t be a good idea to share it with anyone else because they could get sick as well. It’s important for a mother to know if she possibly carries any type of illness in the bloodstream or body, as that could produce an undesirable effect after engaging in placentophagy.
6 It Might Not Taste So Good…
There are certainly many ways that you can consume placenta. You can place it in capsules, eat it raw, or even cook it. There are actually recipes dedicated especially to this stuff. In fact, there are a number of recipes out there with instructions on how to cook placenta (crazy right!?). But be forewarned, if you don’t like the taste of chicken livers or other animal organ meat, then you’re not likely to enjoy the taste of the placenta either.
The placenta is the only part of the body that is expelled from the body and is no longer needed after pregnancy. Despite this fact, the placenta is still an organ, and it will surely taste like one. It doesn’t matter how it is prepared, if the taste of organ meat is not appealing, then it would be hard to find a way to stomach the taste of placenta. Maybe a lot of garlic or onions…
5 You May Be Setting Yourself Up For Disappointment
There are a lot of stories out there about the benefits of placentophagy, and there are many mothers who are willing to testify to the benefits of consuming placenta. Some of the rumored benefits include increased breast milk production, increased energy, and PPD prevention to name a few. However, there isn’t much in the way of research to support the claims.
Even if a mother finds a plethora of positive reviews in support of the practice, it isn’t likely that she will experience the same effects. Every woman’s body is different and there are a lot of biological factors that come into play. How a woman’s body responds to placentophagy completely depends on the individual. And because there isn’t much research, there is no way to tell whether or not the mother can expect a positive or a negative experience. If a woman goes “all in” with the process of placentophagy, she may be setting herself up for disappointment if it doesn’t yield the results that she hoped for.
4 There May Be Side Effects
Every medicine has potential side effects, both those based in science and ancient tradition. Placentophagy can have a number of possible side effects including jitteriness, mood swings, and infections.
The extra hormones that the body takes in from the placenta can cause big mood changes that some women may regard as severe postpartum mood swings. But, it can actually be a side effect of the hormones found in the placenta. Getting “the jitters” could also be a potential side effect of increased hormones. As we stated earlier, the placenta is like a filter and storage facility for all things bad and good. It keeps bad things like bacteria and toxins from reaching the baby, so if someone eats it, there’s a very real possibility that they’ll be ingesting the bad along with the good. This means there is a potential for an allergic reaction, infection and complications with breast milk production.
3 You Might Experience The Placebo Effect
The placebo effect is basically when the mind is telling the body that whatever it is doing to feel better is having the desired effect when it isn’t changing anything at all. So for instance, if a woman is taking placenta pills and believes that it is helping her get better postpartum, then she may or may not be experiencing a placebo effect.
Because research on this topic is limited, there really aren’t many ways to tell if placentophagy has a lot of benefits for moms or if it is “all in their heads,” so to speak. There are a variety of factors that could contribute to things like increased energy, milk production and a better mood. So, it is hard to say whether those benefits that are associated with placentophagy are real or just placebo. This is not to say that there aren’t potential benefits of placentophagy. It just means that it is hard to know for certain.
2 It Might Not Make You Look (Or feel) Any Younger
Another rumored benefit of placentophagy is youthfulness, and man would it be cool if this were true! It is said to make women look younger and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines. Just like the rest of these benefits, it hasn’t been scientifically tested, so there is no way to know for sure currently.
This isn’t one of the most common benefits listed for mothers looking to participate in placentophagy, but it is listed as a potential benefit on some pro-placentophagy websites. There are no guarantees with anything, but it certainly isn’t promised that a mother will look younger after consuming her placenta. There hasn’t been much reasoning provided as to how placentophagy could cause this effect. It would definitely be amazing and certainly more appealing if the placenta could knock a few years off of a face, but there’s currently no way of knowing this for sure.
1 There Isn’t Enough Research
One of the biggest reasons (if not the biggest reason) not to eat the placenta would have to be the fact that there hasn’t been enough research to support this practice. There have been a few isolated studies, but even those haven’t provided thorough information because of missing variables.
There are a lot of stories from mothers, midwives and doulas that can be found in support of the practice, and there may be some merit behind their experiences. However, a mother who decides to eat her placenta must understand that there is a chance that it may not work for her. And, there are a number of health risks that she could take on as a part of engaging in placentophagy. It is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be considered with the utmost scrutiny. The lack of scientific evidence to back this growing tradition only adds to a long list of potential problems with this practice.
Sources: CNN.com, Parents.com, WebMD.com, KevinMD.com, ScienceNews.org