Eating Your Placenta: Are There Any Maternal Health Benefits?
(The placenta, or “afterbirth,” is an organ that forms inside the mother’s uterus along with the baby, and connects the baby by the umbilical cord to the blood supply of the mother, allowing gas and nutrient exchange and waste elimination to happen between mother and baby in utero).
“Placentophagy” is the practice of eating the placenta after delivery.
We have been getting more requests recently from our patients who have delivered with us to take their placentas home when they leave the hospital for the purpose of consuming them to promote maternal postpartum wellness. Some people have been sending them off to be processed and put into capsules to consume, others have been cooking them and using them in recipes in meals.
We’ve been intrigued by the practice and curious if there is any evidence about whether the placenta does, in fact, offer any health benefits to the postpartum mother, so we did a little investigating. There is much speculation out there on the subject, but what does scientific data conclude?
Northwestern University recently did a review of 10 different studies on the practice of placentophagy and found that there is no health benefit to the mother. This article in the BBC news describes the study and findings and discusses the purported health benefits and possible health risks involved in the consumption of placentas.
The clinical psychologist and lead author on the Northwestern study says, “Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants.”
Instead of consuming the placenta, some people take theirs home to bury them. In some cultures, this is a long-practiced tradition with spiritual significance. Sometimes a tree is planted where the placenta is buried so that the tree might grow as the baby ages. There is much information on the subject available online. We encourage you to do your own research, always from reputable sources, and make the right decision for you regarding your placenta.
When we find interesting trends and customs regarding Ob/Gyn practices, we’ll share them with you, along with the findings of available scientific research.
As always, if you have any specific questions about your pregnancy or delivery, please discuss with your Oakland Macomb provider.