Wednesday, January 2, 2013

EAT your placenta?  

What do YOU think about Placentophagia

You want to what? Yuck! Gross! That’s disgusting! Isn’t that like cannibalism? That sounds like something only granola hippies that live in yurts would do!

This is the reaction many mothers receive from friends and family when they are considering placentophagia. What is placentophagia, you may ask?  Well, according to the Segen's Medical Dictionary (Farlex, Inc.) placentophagia is the act of “Eating of the placenta after giving birth.”  The Medical Dictionary then goes on to explain that “most placental mammals, including herbivores, have eaten their own placentas, including Insectivora, Rodentia, Chiroptera, Lagomorpha, Carnivora, Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, and Primates.” 

Although many people joke and jest about how disgusting eating the placenta is, they may not realize that animal and plant placentas can be found in many products around the world, including cosmetics, hair products, food, and pharmaceuticals. 

Many cultures honor the placenta for its imperative role to mother and baby. An article published by Baby Center and approved by the Singapore Medical Advisory Board, States that “The Chinese place a great deal of importance in the healing properties of the placenta. In the Malay Community, the placenta is esteemed for its role in supporting the baby during the pregnancy. After the birth, the placenta is collected and accorded a respectful and proper Muslim burial, as a way of giving thanks to this special organ. 

The Chinese place a great deal of importance in the healing properties the placenta.

Many other cultures around the world have special ceremonies that honor the placenta for its role during the pregnancy. For example, the Maoris in New Zealand bury the placenta as a symbol of honoring the relationship of humans and earth.”  

We are now we are seeing a steady increase in the practice of consuming placenta capsules in the United States. Consuming the placenta has been attributed to many health benefits for a mother in postpartum. Some of these benefits include: increased energy, a quicker return to health after birth, balance hormones, increase production of breast milk, decrease postpartum depression, replenish depleted iron levels, decrease the likelihood of insomnia, and reduce post-natal bleeding.

Because the placenta contains all the nutrients, blood and oxygen from mother to baby in pregnancy, it is sometimes referred to as the “tree of life”. The assumption is, the amazing nutrients that help the baby, can also help the mother, like a postpartum super food.  In an article written by TTS Health Consultant Gabrielle Gingras, she states: 

“The placenta has very high levels of some vitamins such as B6. This is the one that helps out with postpartum depression. The mother can reclaim these vitamins and put them to use in her own body by ingesting the placenta. CRH, a corticotrophin- releasing hormone, normally secreted by the hypothalamus, is well-known to be a stress-reducer. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes high levels of CRH, also pouring great quantities into the expectant mother's bloodstream. And guess what? After birth, the mother has much lower than average levels of this hormone, thus triggering depression. Actually, when so much CRH was being produced during the final weeks of pregnancy, the hypothalamus shut down on its production. After the birth, the hypothalamus hasn't yet kicked into gear and begun to compensate for the low levels of CRH.” 

The questions many ask is whether there is solid research available to back-up these claims.  There is quite a bit of controversy about the validity of research on human placentophagia. And in truth, I was unable to find a great deal of solid clinical research on the topic. I did come across a couple of websites, including, which listed several research articles on placentophagia.  However, of the 9 or so research studies listed only about two of them were specifically related to ingesting the placenta. The others discussed sideline topics such as hormone balance and the benefits of iron supplants. 

Despite the lack of solid research available on the topic, there is a growing number of moms in the United States who have had their placentas encapsulated. The buzz in getting louder and moms everywhere are posting their real life testimonials all over the web. Placentophagia has even gotten the attention of mainstream editorial magazines. In Julie Wan’s article published in the Washington Post, Health and Science section, she comments at  “Mad Men actress January Jones told People magazine that she began taking placenta pills after giving birth last fall and credits them with helping her to bounce back quickly. “It’s not witchcrafty or anything! I suggest it to all moms,” she told the magazine. “Your placenta gets dehydrated and made into vitamins. It’s something I was very hesitant about,” but she ended up taking the pills daily.”

So, what do YOU think about placenta encapsulation?

Did you encapsulate your placenta?  How did it work for you?  We would love to hear from you!

Happy Researching! 

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Today's blog was brought to you by Adriane N. Garbayo, Birth Doula (DONA Trained) Seasons Within Doula Group & Birth Services

Meet the DoulaTales Bloggers: Adriane Garbayo, Andrea Shutt, Deidre Coutsoumpos, Diana Figurski, Elizabeth Valencia, Heather Hanning, Ivette Carter, and Kathie Neff.  

See you next time!


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