EATING PLACENTA AKA “PLACENTOPHAGY”
“But Dr. Scott…
I thought that was something only Kim Kardashian did… some garbage celebrity trend.”
Firstly, let me clarify that this trend has been “first-world-ified.” Animals of all kinds consume their placentas following the birth of their babies, so all in all, if you really think about it, it’s not so strange after all. In fact, it’s actually quite natural – we are animals.
According to behavioural neuroscientist Mark Kristal, most animals eat their placentas because:
(a) The amniotic fluid and placenta contain components that modify and enhance opiate processes in the brain. Translation: It helps with pain management post-delivery.
(b) It acts as a “…backup mechanism to ensure there is immediate onset of care taking behaviour”
He also says that if the placenta is taken away from the animal, she will crave it and it has a detrimental impact on behaviours associated with newborn care.
Humans don’t “crave” their placenta per say. However, we have yet to measure the impact of this new pill empirically so, although we don’t crave it on the same level as we may crave chocolate or salt, perhaps our bodies are alerting us to the fact that something is missing by leaving us with the baby blues, fatigue etc. At this point, we really just don’t know!
This trend has us returning to the days of old where women in countries like China, Vietnam, Hungary, Italy etc. have consumed placenta for years. However, looking back, the most recent re-emergence of the placentophagy trend goes back to the 60s and 70s. Now though, we are moving away from eating it “raw” and they have created a process whereby they literally collect the placenta, dry it, and create a pill for ease of consumption – no different looking than any other capsule you may take daily. Furthermore, I can’t imagine consuming a whole placenta would be enjoyable post deliver…not exactly what I’d have in mind…so the pills preserve the placenta so you can take a pill or two a day without worrying about getting ill due to other pathogens infecting your nice healthy placenta….
Grossed out yet? COMMON – kind of cool, no?
Funnily enough, placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since the early 1500’s to reduce fatigue and increase milk production (Did you know: TCM is a modality studied by naturopaths?!). I guess I haven’t had the placenta lecture at school yet – I’ll be waiting, patiently.
I’ve read women’s testimonials from all over raving that consuming their encapsulated placenta following the birth of their child help with almost everything other than the kitchen sink during the postpartum time-frame.
Potential benefits of placenta consumption:
- mental health/emotional stability
- overall well being
- post-partum depression
- increasing milk supply
- stopping haemorrhaging (bleeding)
- balance hormones
- replenishing iron stores
- assisting the uterus return to its pre-baby state
- increasing energy levels
How do they encapsulate a placenta?
To be clear – this is something to be done by a professional and not a service we offer at the clinic.
1. The placenta is retrieved with 48 hours of deliver
Some companies that provide this service will not encapsulate if the placenta was delivered in water while others will simply follow a “plencental cleaning” protocol and don’t report any issues to date. Either way, the placenta needs to be refrigerated between delivery and collection. It takes roughly one day to thaw if you have frozen it.
2. Then it is cleaned of blood clots and remaining blood
* Some companies steam the placenta with or without herbs while others proceed directly to…
4. Finally, the dried placenta is ground down into a fine power and encapsulated
How long do you take the placenta pills?
1-2 weeks postpartum. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that regulates the endocrine system, and they have done studies that show that it takes up to 2 weeks for the hypothalamus to get the signal saying that “baby has been born, so you need to kick into action and start regulating things more tightly here”…the claim is that placental pills will help with this regulation while the brain catches up.
What does the science say?
Unfortunately, there are not many human studies on this new trend. Check out PlacentaBenefits.info for some quick summaries of what’s out there keeping in mind this source is bias in their interpretation…
Yes, a lot of the research has been done in animals…this is a criticism that I’ve heard in casual conversations on the topic and my only rebuttal is this: why are we fine with testing drugs (pharmaceuticals) on animal models, but as soon as something “natural” is proven in an animal and subsequently researching funding is pulled for the human trials people poke holes in the animal model… there are a lot of factors at play here I won’t get into – long story short, pharmaceutical companies cannot patent my placenta – you do the math!
So far, the world of western science has little to support placental consumption. There is some evidence that it increases lactation. A mechanism (exactly how the milk supply is increased) was not identified in the study but the University of Nevada has some studies in the works!
The anecdotal evidence is strong though – SO,
What do you think?
Is placental encapsulation something you would consider?