Thursday, March 03, 2011

Would you eat your placenta?

The practice of consuming placenta after giving birth is not new, in fact it’s been followed for hundreds of years in Traditional Chinese medicine, but its popularity is increasing among some mothers in Western countries. No studies have confirmed the usefulness of the practice, called placentophagy, and many medical professionals scoff at the idea. Still, some mothers swear by the positive effects on their healing time and depression.

The idea behind eating the placenta is to replace some of the hormones that are suddenly depleted after giving birth, a drop that some people believe is the root of the baby blues. Proponents of the practice are quick to point out that all mammals in the animal kingdom eat their placenta. However, animal researchers believe that consuming the placenta helps animals to relieve pain and avoid leaving a scent for predators. Nevertheless, one study of rats found that eating their own placenta caused their bodies to increase production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for lactation.

Human placenta is usually dried, ground, put into capsules and taken like a vitamin; although some women actually cook with it, mix it into smoothies or even eat it raw. This unique method of preparation has been making the rounds on message boards, attributed to midwife Janneli Miller:

“After the placenta is prepared it is taken in capsule form, 2 capsules at a time, with white wine. The wine is said to help disperse the energy of the placenta throughout the body. Women can take this dose up to three times a day... Remaining placenta can be saved and used homeopathically for those times when the child undergoes a separation from the mother…To cook, wash excess blood from the placenta. Place it in a steamer over water. Place with it fresh ginger slices, half a lemon and a hot pepper…. After steaming, slice the placenta in 1/8" strips…Place the strips on a cookie sheet and place it in an oven on the lowest possible setting for several hours until completely brittle-dry…Powder the strips in a coffee grinder, and encapsulate.”

Midwives and birth centers sometimes preserve or even process the placenta for the mother, but some hospitals won’t even release the organ, deeming it medical waste. It’s interesting to note that a study released in 2009 found that stem cells in the placental tissue are identical in nature to umbilical cord blood stem cells, which has led to a new industry of placenta banking.

Would you eat your placenta?

Would you eat your own placenta? [Colorado Connection]
Ingesting the placenta: Is it healthy for new moms [USA Today]
Eating your placenta to prevent PPD [Mothering Forums]
Placenta: New source for harvesting stem cells [Science Daily]
Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation [Reproduction-Online