Placenta: To Eat or Not To Eat, That is the Question - Kamm McKenzie OBGYN

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Placenta: To Eat or Not To Eat, That is the Question

The placenta is your body’s only disposable organ. It contains a network of tissue and blood vessels that allows for the exchange of nutrients and gases between the mother and the fetus. It removes waste products and carbon dioxide from the fetus. It is the blood barrier between the maternal and fetal circulation. Some antibodies can pass from mother to fetus helping protect from some diseases. It functions as an endocrine organ making some hormones. These functions we can all accept. The question being addressed in this post is, “Is it worth eating?”

Placentophagy is the act of eating one’s placenta. This practice has become increasingly popular in recent years and I thought it was worth a science based review to see what validity there might be to it’s claims of decreased postpartum depression, increased milk production and the like. Dr. Crystal Clark is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist specializing in reproduction ­related mood disorders at Northwestern’s Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders. She published an article in the June 4th Archives of Women’s Mental Health that reviewed 10 recent studies on this topic. The summary of their findings were:“Studies on placentophagy did not turn up any human or animal data to support the common claims that eating the placenta either raw, cooked or encapsulated offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding or replenishes iron in the body.” 

Dr Clark further added that “there are no studies examining the risks of ingesting the placenta, which acts as a filter to absorb and protect the developing fetus from toxins and pollutants.” They also raised the concerns that no regulations exist as to how the placenta is stored and prepared. They point out that the dosing is inconsistent, women have no idea what they are ingesting, and the risks to mother and infant are unknown. Professor Mark Kristol, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo has published on placentophagy since the 1970’s and stated that “people can believe what they want, but there is no research to substantiate claims of human benefit.” In our practice some mothers choose to ingest their placenta. While I could find no scientific data to support this choice, each woman must decide for themselves what they are most comfortable doing. It would seem that since it is becoming increasingly popular additional studies may be called for. 

The triangle has several businesses which, for a fee, will prepare your placenta for you. Currently we are seeing folks opting for encapsulation. The placenta is dehydrated, pulverized and put into many gelatin capsules. The costs ranged from $150.00 to­ $300.00. Several of these are “certified,” and some midwives will also provide this service. You can even prepare it yourself at home. Here are a few other things you could consider doing with your placenta: 

1. Designer Alex Green has created the Placenta Teddy Bear. ​You can turn your placenta into a “one of a kind Teddy Bear”, although perhaps not so cuddly.

2. Placenta Art Prints​.​ Place the side of your placenta which you wish to print against a piece of paper, hold the umbilical cord in one hand. No paint is required as there should be enough blood in the placenta. The print “looks like jellyfish and balloons!” 

3. Paint placenta onesies and t-shirts​​ with placenta blood. That’s nice. Instructions can be found in the hyperlink.

4. Plant a placenta fruit tree​.​ Bury your placenta and plant a fruit tree over it as a living monument to your child.

5. Throw it away

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Smith

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