Eating Your Placenta Is Not Helpful, New Research Finds

I admit that I've never ventured into the world of placenta eating, but I know of plenty of women who have. 

Leah Outten of The Grace Bond was a fellow disbeliever until she got hit hard with the “baby blues” about three weeks after her third child was born. “I thought it was gross,” she wrote on her blog. But desperate for help because the way she was feeling, she turned to ingesting placenta — her friend's placenta. 

“One of my best friends offered for me to try some of her placenta tincture from her recent birth,” Outten explained on her blog. “I knew I needed something, and taking in my friend’s placenta hormones absorbed in alcohol didn't sound that bad if it was going to help!”

She details how she took some of the placenta tincture in her juice and saw an immediate difference. “It is no exaggeration to say that I felt relief within hours. I felt happy again; I felt like me again. I felt like I had control over my home again and of my emotions. … I am now a firm believer in using our placentas to help keep us feeling more balanced.”

As a nurse, I've wondered if there really could be a medicinal reason behind eating the placenta. I mean, after all, other mammals do it, right? Nature usually has a reason for doing things a certain way. And then there's the fact that the placenta is chock-full of nutrients, vitamins, and tons of iron — all good for healing after birth. 

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And the stories of mothers who swear that eating their placenta staved off postpartum depression were almost enough to convince me. I would have eaten two placentas if I could have guaranteed I would not get postpartum depression. So when it comes to the placenta vs. no placenta theories, it's a toss-up. 

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Image via Flickr/ danoxster

But now, a new review puts a little discredit to the theories that support eating the placenta. 

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Researchers at Northwestern reviewed over 10 studies done on placenta consumption and found no evidence that eating the placenta in the postpartum phase helps with commonly touted benefits such as reducing postpartum depression, postpartum pain, energy, lactation, skin elasticity, or in enhancing maternal bonding. 

“Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants,” said lead author Cynthia Coyle, a Feinberg faculty member and a psychologist on the school's website. 

What's important to realize is that this new development was a review of the current studies, not a new study, so it is promising but also not exhaustive. And Coyle makes a good point in looking at why these women may be so willing to eat their placenta. Like Outten, they may be “desperate” for the postpartum help and support that is so sorely lacking in this country. 

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So instead of doing studies to discredit something that has helped some women cope with the difficult transition of the postpartum period, maybe we could look for a solution that could help? 

Are you considering eating or otherwise consuming your placenta? 

What do you think?

Eating Your Placenta Is Not Helpful, New Research Finds

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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