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Should New Moms Eat Their Placenta?

by Sárka-Jonae Miller
See more articles by Sárka-Jonae Miller

(The Best Years in Life) A new trend in parenting is eating the placenta, a practice known as placentophagy. Most land-dwelling mammals eat their afterbirth, a process that animals might do in an effort to bond with newborns. Although traditionally humans and domesticated animals have not engaged in this practice, researchers are looking into the possible benefits. There is already some basis for the belief that placenta consumption could positively impact health. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have long considered eating dried placenta a restorative practice; however, consuming a placenta in any form is a new concept in the West.

A few celebrities have jumped on the placentophagy bandwagon. Alicia Silverstone reportedly ate her placenta and shared recipes for how to prepare placenta with the world. January Jones of TV's Mad Men admitted to taking dried placenta capsules after the birth of her son. It seems that most newcomers are following in Jones's footsteps with capsules instead of cooking and eating their placenta. Ground placenta can fill around 35 to 70 capsules depending on the size and thickness of the individual organ. Home birth midwife Claudia Booker says to take two capsules per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to assist in healing after giving birth.

The Placenta and its Purported Benefits

Placentas are organs that grow on the walls of pregnant women's uteri. They allow nutrients and oxygen to pass through to the fetus via the umbilical cord. Placentas also get rid of waste. The premise behind the purported benefits of eating a placenta is that the organ retains the nutrients that have been passing from mother to baby throughout the pregnancy. The physical toll that giving birth takes on a mother's body might benefit from the potentially nutrient-rich placenta.

Proponents also say that placentophagy stimulates breast milk production, increases energy, and could decrease risk of post-natal depression. Babies might benefit from absorbing more nutrients through breast milk.


Research on  Placentophagy

The Royal College of Midwives neither encourages nor discourages mothers from eating their placenta due to lack of sufficient research to form an opinion, but a survey taken from 189 mothers who had eaten their encapsulated placenta showed possible benefits. The study published in the Ecology of Food and Nutrition journal reported that most mothers stated that they had received benefits from placentophagy and that they planned to consume their placentas again in the future if they had more children. The study's researchers recommended more studies to determine whether any reported benefits were genuine or due to a placebo effect.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate placenta capsules and many physicians are skeptical at best whether placentophagy has any positive effects.

Although steaming, drying, and then grinding the placenta into powder for use in capsules is the most common method for consuming placentas, some women will blend it into a fruit smoothie to drink soon after giving birth while others might eat it cooked or raw. Mothers are encouraged to discuss any major decisions regarding nutrition with their doctor.

See also:

How to Build Self Confidence in Your Children

Kids Who Get Dirty Have Better Immune Systems

Teaching Children Gardening Boosts Their Development and Health


About the Author

Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.



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