January Jones recently told The Telegraph that she ingested the placenta of her baby, and that the practice has healthful benefits for the mother.
“We’re the only mammals who don’t ingest our own placentas,” she said.
Well, that’s not entirely true – chimpanzees apparently leave the placenta alone as they busy themselves with caring for their newborns. Nonetheless, most mammals do eat their placentas, although the motivation may lie more in hygiene and keeping a nest or den clean after the birth of many pups, rather than healthful benefits.
Dr. Melissa Arca, though admitting that there are no scientifically controlled studies about the benefits of eating placentas, does say the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.
“Mothers who believe in this practice report benefits such as a decrease in postpartum depression symptoms, an increase in breast milk production, and an increase in energy.”
We wonder if that may not be chalked up to the placebo effect…
Although the eating of placentas might sound like a fairly gross proposition, mothers who opt to go this route do not simply take it to the refrigerator and grill or fry it for a later post-partum appetizer or stir fry. Most, including January Jones, have the placenta freeze-dried, turned into powder, then put into capsules, to be taken with the morning multi-vitamin and juice. Jones claims that the placenta capsules help her stay energized.
Some natural-birth advocates suggest that ingesting the placenta will help mothers alleviate post-partum depression. Doula and certified childbirth educator Carrie Kenner, is working on a pilot study to prove effects of the placenta on PPD. Kenner also points out that Eastern medicine has been using powdered placenta for thousands of years for its alleged energetic effect.
Of course, those cultures have also been grinding down various animal parts – and driving said animals to extinction – into questionable but ubiquitously sought-after elixir of youth. Everything from tiger penis to rhinoceros horn to bear bile have claimed the title, so what’s a little placenta.
The storing of placentas is not a regulated practice and could be a potential source of health problems, such as contamination and spoilage. Even Dr. Arca’s enthusiasm is dampened by the practical logistics of storing placentas immediately post-partum.
“The process is not regulated and this could carry some risk as women entrust others to store, process, and encapsulate their placenta for them,” she said.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons