Eating your placenta is something that most mammals do — it’s called placentophagy, and it can be done raw. There are plenty of pros and cons.
Eating your placenta is a thing. Some people do it raw, they have others encapsulate it. They say all mammals do it, but there are some pretty serious pro’s and con’s that we will discuss.
First off – let me introduce myself. I’m Hilary, and I’ve been a labor and delivery nurse since 2001 (still practicing, in fact, I’m on call with the hospital right now). I even have my own online prenatal class for couples who are searching for a way to do a prenatal class on their own schedule (and on their couch). People love it — you should check it out!
This post was originally written in November 2013, and was updated in Sept. 2017
Postpartum depression is real. It’s real, and it can be REALLY scary, prompting women to try all sorts of things.
How can you eat your placenta?
There are a few ways. I have heard of smoothies, we even had a woman eat hers raw in the delivery room (true story), but most people use placental encapsulation.
It is where you take your placenta, give it to someone who drys it (usually in a home food-dryer, like Mr Ronco) and encapsulates it for you to take home and normalize your hormones. You, in turn, hand over a LOT of money.
Pros for eating your placenta
The idea of it is that the placenta contains a lot of hormones. As you eat it — that builds your supply of those hormones, and in turn — that help your uterus shrink back down, it enhances milk supply and staves of postpartum depression.
I did just read a study, that in rats — ingesting the placenta helps increase their pain threshold (who thinks up these studies?). Although, no studies have correlated that to humans.
There haven’t been any scientific studies that prove that eating your placenta (in any form) is helpful. In anedotal research most (around 75%) people have eaten it claim to have:
- Improved mood
- Increased Energy
- Improved lactation
But, as I stated above — there are no scientific studies proving its efficacy and as long as people have been doing it, I think we would’ve seen one by now if it truly was effective. I’ve been seeing it in my practice for well over 5 years.
Eating your placenta cons
Most recently the CDC came out saying that moms who are beta-strep positive should NOT be consuming their placenta. They also reiterated the lack of credible benefits.
I also saw an article written by a lactation consultant who said she saw an 50% decrease in milk supply from those who were eating their encapsulated placenta. The science in her article seems pretty sound.
Also, the placenta needs to be taken very soon after delivery. I’ve seen parents so concerned about taking care of it that they aren’t able to properly just relax and enjoy the day!
I thought this article from a woman who regretted eating it was pretty interesting.
Mammals eat their placentas
Animals eat their placentas, right?
Well, they eat them while they’re still steaming in the grass. They also eat the grass and anything else that’s outside. They get vital nutrients to help their body compensate after delivery. They don’t ask the father dog to go get them a hamburger at Wendys.
**I also read that animals often eat it to hide the face that they had a baby (and that baby is vulnerable to predators)**
So, my thoughts are these:
Postpartum depression is horrible, and I think that people grasp at straws to avoid it. If this is one of those straws and you feel desperate for help (keeping in mind, I think you should be under the care of a psychiatric physician as well). If this is one of the straws, then perhaps it’s worth a try.
I do mostly see placental encapsulation touted by those who do it. It is certainly not cheap. Most of the pricing I’ve seen is 200-500 dollars. Also, that encapsulation is done at home, usually with your basic food dehydrator. In general, these machines were meant to be cleaned but not sterilized. That means your placenta could be on the same surface as a beta-strep placenta was just on.
Beyond beta strep, your placenta is considered medical waste and can carry a LOT of differing bacteria. Just the thought of that food dehydrator makes me feel a little sick.
If you’re doing it for milk supply increases there are a lot of other ways to give it a try. Talk with a certified lactation consultant for help. You can even see them prior to delivery for tips! I like this article from my friend Katie that has TONS of tips and articles on increasing your milk supply.
I also wonder that once you freeze-dry something that fragile doesn’t it kill most of the hormones anyway? It seems like they’d be denatured long before you ingested them. Most medical studies find that ingesting hormones isn’t particularly efficient, which is why people need shots of progesterone, instead of a pill.
I guess my advice is to put that money in the child’s college fund.
I have had friends do it, who said it helped. The only problem is, we have no idea if sugar pills would have helped just as much. Especially if you paid hundreds of dollars for those sugar pills and REALLY wanted them to work.
My other advice is (and yes, I’m giving it again) that postpartum depression is real, and you should have a talk with your doctor before delivery if you are worried. See what they have to say.
There’s nothing wrong with antidepressants before you deliver. Share your worries with your friend base. You can do it.
One last thought.
The placenta is an amazing organ. Each time I learn more about it I am amazed at the true feat of nature it is. I’m in awe of placentas. I am grateful that 3 blobs of tissue kept my kids alive for nine months. I’m grateful for them. Be sure to check yours out at delivery!
If you’re worried about things after the baby, be sure to check out my postpartum checklist — an easy way to make sure you’re prepared for after the baby! And, check out my other delivery tips below that:
Get the list of things you need to have on hand for AFTER baby. So helpful to have that stuff on hand before you come home!