Some women choose to eat their placentas after giving birth, but one doctor warns against this practice. In a New York Times article, OB-GYN Jen Gunter discusses the misconceptions and risks related to placentophagy.
Those who sing the praises placentophagy present it as an ancient, biologically normal practice. They claim that it fixes a plethora of common postpartum woes, minimizing pain and maximizing milk supply. In her article, Dr. Gunter explains that these claims lack evidence and points out that on the contrary, eating one's placenta can be dangerous.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="860"] Via Embracing Childbirth[/caption]
Firstly, eating the placenta is not an age-old tradition. The earliest documented case of placentophagy occurred in 1973. Furthermore, there is no record of any reindustrialized society engaging in the practice or any known literary references to it. Not even during times of famine do we have reports of mothers ingesting placenta. This is a new thing.
Claims that eating the placenta after giving birth will improve mood and energy and relieve pain are merely anecdotal. Perhaps they haven't been studied in detail, but when it comes to the claim of improving milk supply, science shows the opposite. The hormones estradiol and progesterone exist within the placenta, which can actually cause problems with milk production and possibly even lead to dangerous blood clots.
The placenta acts as a filter, protecting the growing baby from toxins the mother ingests. A mother who eats her placenta will swallow traces of arsenic, mercury, and lead along with it. There has been a case of neonatal sepsis after a woman ate her placenta. Placentae are colonized with bacteria and some are infected.
Why has the trend of eating one's placenta caught on? Most likely, women are drawn to a possible fix to the many physical, mental, and emotional difficulties they face while concurrently caring constantly for a newborn. Every mom knows how exhausting it is.
Perhaps the wise choice would be to forgo the practice of placentophagy and instead eat iron-rich foods, drink plenty of fluids, and continue taking prenatal vitamins throughout the postpartum period. These practices support the postnatal body's needs, without the risks related to eating the placenta. Of course, consult your doctor before taking any supplements or making any decisions regarding placenta consumption to find out what will be right for you.