Placentophagy, the practice of eating one’s own placenta -- either cooked, encapsulated, or raw, is becoming trendy among certain mommy circles. Health advocates and the media assert that the placenta retains hormones and nutrients that are beneficial to the mother and can aid in postpartum recovery. Some of the proposed benefits include prevention of postpartum depression, reduction of postpartum bleeding, more rapid uterine recovery, increased lactation, enhanced maternal bonding and boosting of the immune system.
So what’s the real deal behind this practice? Is it really the “magic bullet” to solve your postpartum woes? Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. In a recent scientific review in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, researchers determined that to date, studies that have investigated placenta consumption remain inconclusive. There is very little research on the effects of placentophagy in human populations. Not to mention, consuming one’s own placenta may be potentially dangerous to mother and baby.
One of the main functions of the placenta is to protect the fetus from exposure to toxic substances such as mercury, lead and pathogenic bacteria. Because the placenta isn’t sterile, toxic substances may remain in the placenta post-term. Bottom line: placenta ingestion may be more harmful than helpful, and until there is more scientific evidence to support this practice, your best bet is to steer clear.