Before I became pregnant with my kids I had worked in a hospital on the maternal/child unit. I was aware that women were requesting to take their placentas home with them after delivery. Some simply wanted to plant it under a tree while others had heard of incredible healing or nutritional benefits and wanted to eat them. Although I consider myself an open-minded person, I never considered eating my placenta during my three pregnancies. It just wasn’t on my radar of things I wanted to do. Not shocking since I am an annoyingly picky eater and have difficulty swallowing the tiniest of pills. In case you are wondering, eating a placenta is otherwise known as Placentography.
Eating a placenta came back on my radar recently as I was thinking of questions to ask our fans on our Facebook page. (You can see the actual post here). I wanted to know if anyone had done it and their personal experience. There were several positive comments from individuals who had encapsulated their placenta and taken it as a pill. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, there were others that stated there was no way they could eat their placenta and thought it gross. Many were simply following the post as they are currently pregnant and were interested in the commentary.
Then I began asking medical professionals about eating a placenta (ie: my previous work friends). The information I heard surprised me. I started doing research and that surprised me too. I could find lots of personal attestations that eating a placenta helped with a person’s Post Partum Depression (PPD), increased their energy and gave them an amazing milk supply (among other benefits). I couldn’t find any actual medical studies that were peer reviewed that supported Placentography. Keep in mind, I did not go to the lengths of finding any article as I would have in my graduate study days but I thought that certainly, those articles would be in abundance. Part of the problem may be that I do not have access to the types of data bases that physicians have access. If anyone has a link to one I’d love to read it. Please make sure it is actually a study though.
What I did read, was that once a placenta has been prepared for encapsulation, it has actually lost most of its nutritional value in the process. This made sense to me as the same thing can happen with the food that we eat. We know that many times, how we cook our food can affect the nutrients within. The placenta must go through a process before it is ingested because studies have found that it has bacteria on it that can be harmful to a human. I mean, often times it is passing through a vagina first and a woman is known to poop and pee during the delivery process so it makes sense that one would want it cleaned up a bit. (Are some of you gagging right now? Sorry about that!) Side note, I came across an article of a body builder who orders placentas online and eats them raw because he believes in their nutritional value.
One of our commenters stated that women have been doing it (eating a placenta…not doing “It” although both are true wink, wink) since the beginning of time and animals eat their placentas as well. Again, the wheels in my brain were grinding (albeit slowly) along. It is true that eating a placenta may have been around for thousands of years but it is also true that there were many things done previously that we no longer do now that we have more knowledge about the details of the practice. I mean, physicians used to practice bloodletting as a form of treatment but we know now it had no benefits to curing an illness. Bad analogy but you get my drift. It is also true that animals eat the placenta of their young after giving birth (thanks NatGeo for the visual). Here’s the thing though, at that time, the placenta is being eaten in its natural and raw state so does that make it more nutrient dense? What I also read is that animals do this to reduce the chance of predators being aware that there is a defenseless creature nearby. Additionally, humans have others around them that can assist the mother after the birth and provide nourishment while animals do not. So to keep up their strength, they eat what is at hand.
It has also been suggested that those who have tried the practice of Placentography and experienced benefits were actually just experiencing the placebo affect. I mean, how does one know, especially if it is a first pregnancy, that she would have gotten PPD if she hadn’t ingested her placenta? How does one know if she would have had an amazing supply of milk anyway? Other women who experienced PPD with their first swore that taking the placenta capsules helped reduce or vanquish PPD symptoms altogether after their subsequent children. Maybe, when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t really matter if there are studies that back up the efficacy of eating a placenta if the placebo affect works so well. Hell, I’ve seen women struggle with PPD and it’s awful.
I am done having babies now so eating a placenta is no longer a decision that is on the table for me. Well, mine anyway and I can tell you with certainty I’m not volunteering to eat yours. If I had to do it all over again would I eat my own placenta though? Probably not. There is just not enough credible research out there that would suggest to me there are benefits to this practice. I do hope they do more research in this area though as we may just simply not know enough at this time. It would just be nice to know for sure though…you know?
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