Talk to any natural birth advocate, and the subject of whether or not you will consume your placenta will likely come up. Although gross sounding at first, many women claim consuming their placenta has had tremendous health effects for them.
Consumption varies by woman. Some eat it raw, some freeze it and place it into a morning smoothie, some fry it up and some have it dried and made into pills. I chose to have my placenta encapsulated with some leftover that was made into a tincture I am taking to this day! I’m not sure if it actually helped, but I would definitely do it again. I found the experience to be quite enjoyable.
What does the research say though? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of consuming your placenta.
Full of Nutrients and Hormones – The placenta, being an organ, contains a ton of vitamins and minerals including iron, prolactin (needed to produce breastmilk), prostoglandin (helps the uterus to contract after childbirth) and oxytocin (the bonding ‘love’ hormone). This boost in nutrients may help mama recover quicker after childbirth.
May Help with Postpartum Depression – Research published by The Journal of Nutrition suggest there may be a link between iron deficiency and postpartum depression. Since the placenta is high in iron, it may help combat postpartum depression. Many mothers who have consumed their placenta will report they had less fatigue and felt better overall.
May help breastmilk come in – Prolactin is a wonderful hormone that is largely responsible for telling the breast to start producing milk. The placenta contains this wonderful hormone, and some women report that their milk comes in quicker!
Limited Research Studies – Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on placentophagy, and it is difficult to conduct as a research study. In order for a study to be accurate, there needs to be a test group that receives a placenta, and a control group which does not (may receive nothing, or may be told they are receiving a placenta treatment when they are not). Further, participants who choose to consume their own placenta may already be aware of the potential benefits of eating their placenta and may expect them – essentially a self fulfilling prophecy (IE the placebo effect).
May Consume Toxins – The placenta acts as a sort of ‘barrier’ between mom and baby, helping the fight of foreign entities that may cause infection. This includes the things that mom knowingly and unknowingly come into a contact with. One analysis of human placenta showed it to contain mercury, lead and other bacteria.
Of course, we can’t discount the experiences of women who have found the practice helpful and good for their physical and mental health. It simply means more research needs to be done on the practice.
Did you consume your placenta? Did you find it helpful?
Want to honor your placenta without consuming it? Check out my article 6 Ideas for your placenta.
A note on veganism and placentaphaghy. Some might argue that consuming your placenta counts as an animal product since it comes from the human animal. I think the difference here is a matter of consent. The animal (you!) is choosing to provide the organ for consumption; rather than a life taken without permission.