The notion of eating your baby’s placenta has always been tied to strange, gag-inducing, sensationalized stories. You probably caught wind of the celebrity rumor that Tom Cruise claimed he would eat his newborn’s placenta, and when the concept of digging into a placenta meal is mentioned in social circles, the typical response is a wince, a gag, and arms waving ‘no!’ But placentophagy, (eating the placenta) is being increasingly marketed to the mainstream as a practice for new mothers to help them stave off postpartum depression and recover more quickly after giving birth. DIY Placenta Encapsulation kits are now available for use in the privacy of one’s home. Placenta Benefits.info is one website that sells this kit, alongside a slew of convincing reasons to start swallowing your baby’s placenta one pill at a time.
With a list of promising results including: balancing your hormones, enhancing your milk supply, and increasing your energy, the Placenta Benefit.info website makes their placenta encapsulation services seem like every new mother’s magic pill. Most moms-to-be fear all of the above, asking themselves, ‘Will I get depressed, produce enough milk, be able to handle the demands of a newborn?’ And Placenta Benefit.info seems to offer the perfect poppable solution via ingesting one’s own placenta. But there is no scientific data that eating the placenta actually wards off postpartum depression in women.
Scientifically speaking, where animals are concerned, “The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin which stimulates involution of the uterus, in effect cleaning the uterus out… (it) also contains small amounts of oxytocin which eases birth stress and causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk.” According to an article on human placentophagy on MSNBC, “The placenta does produce estrogen and progesterone,” says Mavis Schorn, the director of the nurse midwifery program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. “So the theoretical idea is that it may help, but there’s absolutely no research on it.”
While most mammals in the animal kingdom unflinchingly ingest their afterbirth, the trend has yet to entirely make its way to the universal palate of mankind. However, if pill popping your placenta isn’t your ‘bag,’ you can find sites with placenta recipes (not to be confused with polenta recipes), and directions on “how to cook your placenta.” One mom proudly tells her story of eating her baby’s placenta and shares photos of all the meals she made with it. Time Magazine online also weighs in on the topic of a placenta encapsulation specialist visiting a new mom’s home to prepare pills, “As she steamed the placenta with some herbs, the kitchen got that ironlike smell of cooked organ meat…”
There’s plenty to be found and debated on the topic, but it all certainly seems like a hard pill to swallow, given that there is no evidence that women will reap the rewards of ingesting their baby’s placenta.