A team of doctors has determined whether or not eating your placenta is as beneficial as countless celebrities have made it out to be.
The placenta is an organ shared by a pregnant woman and her unborn fetus. It acts as the fetus’s lungs, liver, kidneys, and entire gastrointestinal system. The organ comes out alongside the baby during birth and is usually thrown away by the hospital.
A Trend That Seems To Good To Be True
Over the past decade or so, an increasing amount of new mothers have endorsed “placentophagy,” or the act of ingesting one’s placenta. They claim that eating freeze-dried and encapsulated placenta helps with lactation, calms postpartum depression, increases energy, and alleviates pain in general.
Proponents of placentophagy include Kim Kardashian and January Jones, who revealed in 2012 that placenta pills made it easier for her to resume her work as an actress following the birth of her son.
The scientific community had not given an official opinion on the practice until this past summer, when a team of doctors examined numerous studies on these supposed health benefits.
The Doctors Have Spoken: It’s All A Lie
"Don't eat your baby's placenta” said senior study author Dr. Amos Grünebaum, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. "There are no benefits, and there are potential risks."
Very few clinical trials have studied placentophagy, and the team concluded that none of these trials could definitively say that eating placenta is good for you.
The doctors also noted that many of the surveys taken on placentophagy involved women who participated on their own accord, which suggests they were already biased on the matter. As for the placenta’s supposed ability to improve mood, the team suspects the placebo effect might have played a role in this claim.
While the placenta does contain Oxytocin, which helps mammary cells produce milk, there is no proof that that ingesting the placenta allows you to absorb the hormone.
Just Another Money-Driven Scheme?
Some of the risks the team discovered include viral and bacterial infections for the baby and the mother as well as the ingestion of potentially harmful toxins and hormones. Even placentas that have been freeze-dried, encapsulated or grilled present these risks, partially because heat cannot remove the presence of certain heavy metals and hormones.
Dr. Grunebaum told the Washington Post that people who urge new mothers to eat their placentas are likely just trying to squeeze money out of them. The obstetrician cited the $200 to $400 it costs to convert a placenta into capsules.
"The people who tell women they should eat placentas make good money from it," he said. "It's the same idea as people selling snake oil.”
Last June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its own warning about placentophagy citing a case involving a new mother from Oregon.
She passed a life-threatening blood infection onto her baby via breastfeeding, and the cause was determined to placenta capsules the mother had been ingesting since the child was born.