Placentophagy, or ingesting your own placenta, is common in the natural world – and increasingly common in the celebrity world, with stars like January Jones and Alicia Silverstone giving eating the placenta a try. But are there truly benefits to the practice? Are there dangers? Would you do it? Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s my video overview on eating the placenta
Background on eating the placenta
In China, mothers have engaged in placenta consumption for thousands of years. It was meant to help them regain their energy, stamina and boost milk supply.
And there actually is some science to eating the placenta… it contains oxytocin, a hormone that reduces pain and increases bonding with baby, it also contains thyroid stimulating hormones, interferon and prolactin, which can boost the immune system, energy, recovery and milk supply.
Most mammals do it
As it turn out, humans are one of the only mammals on earth who don’t eat their placentas after giving birth. Some researchers say that this is because eating the placenta offers a biological advantage.
Critics argue that most mammals consume their placentas to hide traces of childbirth from predators in the wild.
Truth is, whether you’re for it or against it, very little research has been done on these advantages, but one study did find that rats who consumed their placentas had higher pain thresholds, among other benefits.
How people do it
So, do people just wolf down their placentas right after giving birth like other mammals do?
Well, some people actually do eat it raw. In rare cases they do right after birth, but usually folks will blend some in a smoothie in the first few days after birth.
Other people cook the placenta like they would any other organ meat, and eat it that way.
But the most popular and palatable option by far is to encapsulate the placenta. This usually involves steaming the placenta, then drying it, grinding it, and placing it into pill form.
My take on it
In talking with natural mamas in our community, I’ve heard great success stories. Moms who struggled with postpartum depression, baby blues, and/or low milk supply in the past said they’d avoided these problems by consuming their placenta. Other moms report feeling more energetic, less grumpy, and sounder sleep.
Other people have come out against it, reporting negative effects, and even coming out against the practice for moral reasons. One person even described it as cannibalism.
As a natural mama, I was intrigued. I didn’t do it with my first child, as I felt that we expelled the placenta for a reason. But I was still curious. What would it be like? Would it help? Would I feel better?
I figured I’d give eating the placenta a try.
Turns out, my birth doula is also certified to encapsulate placentas, and does so for $200. Sold!
Other posts in this series
Part 2: The placenta encapsulation process from start to finish.
Part 3: My experience eating my placenta.
What about you?
Did you try eating the placenta? Would you?