Eating your placenta – called placentophagy – is a controversial practice gaining in popularity. Raw, cooked, freeze-dried or encapsulated, there is a placenta recipe out there to suit your taste [sic]. But is it wise? Women considering consumption should be educated on the pros and cons and risks vs. potential benefits. Nurses need the same education before their patient whips out a Bullet, tosses in the placenta with berries and drinks the “smoothie” (oh yes, this happened). When I heard about it I was paralyzed with shock and awe and knew I needed to be prepared before it happened to me – and to be knowledgeable to answer any questions posed to me by a patient.
How is the placenta consumed?
The possibilities are endless. It can be eaten raw, frozen, baked, boiled, fried, grilled, or blended into a smoothie. A quick Google search of “placenta recipes” yielded 228,000 results. There are even cookbooks. I kid you not.
Why eat the placenta (potential benefits)?
The short list of proposed benefits to eating your placenta:
- increased energy
- improved lactation
- decrease in postpartum depression
- reduced postpartum bleeding
- rich in iron
- reduces pain
Sounds great, but there is no evidence-based medicine to support these claims. There are no studies to show what is destroyed or rendered inactive by cooking or freezing it.
Why you shouldn’t eat your placenta (potential risks)!
Another short list:
- exposure to pathogens (germs)
- exposure to blood born illnesses (hepatitis, HIV, etc.) for those handling the preparation
- ingestion of pathogens from ingesting raw or under-cooked tissue
- no government guidelines for safe placenta handling (for both the consumer or preparer)
- risk of blood clots (due to possible estrogen content)
- decrease in milk supply (estrogen suppresses prolactin, necessary for milk production)
- ingestion of unknown bioactive hormones
- ingestion of contaminants (the placenta is a filter!)
There aren’t any. There is no research, study, evidence-based medicine or practice to support the consumption of a human placenta. The benefits are self-reported and the risks are real.
An article in the January/February 2016 edition of JOGNN (Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing) provides a thorough review of the literature regarding consumption of the placenta, concluding there is no strong evidence to support the claims of proponents.
I’m not convinced a study involving humans is possible. Let’s see – divide women into two groups – those that eat their placenta and those that don’t. Let’s see who gets sick or dies and who doesn’t.
What is the placenta after birth?
It is medical waste. In the absence of a request to take home a placenta (for eating or burying under a tree), it is treated as medical waste. Regulated garbage.
Did you know?
The placenta is the only disposable human organ. There are many vestigial organs (hilarious article here), but the placenta is the only disposable one. Not used again. Trash. Make a new one next pregnancy – we don’t reuse or re-purpose it.
Eating your placenta? Placentophagy defined.
Well, I think this about sums it up. Urban Dictionary defines the term as “the practice of eating that deliciously moist and veiny sac that falls out of a gaping vagina after the birth of choice mammal.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
As a nurse, I will do what is required. I’ll answer questions about eating your placenta and appear nonjudgmental. I’ll be supportive of your decision. But don’t ask me if we have a blender or juicer you can use. Don’t ask me what I think.
Because after all, I’m a vegetarian. I’d never eat organs or cannibalized feed.