In recent years, eating the placenta (placentophagy) after delivery appears to be a trendy affair as it has been popularized by the media and celebrities. The placenta can be eaten raw, cooked, roasted, dehydrated, encapsulated or through smoothies and tinctures. There has been no standardized method of preparation but the most frequent way appears to be encapsulation into pills after steaming and drying the placenta.
What is placenta?Placenta, also known as afterbirth, is a disc- shaped organ that develops in the womb during pregnancy. It provides oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the growing baby and removes waste products from the baby's blood. (see figure). It is expelled from the womb after delivery.
Almost all mammals eat their placentae raw soon after delivery but no contemporary human culture has incorporated consuming placenta postpartum as part of its traditions.Advocates of placentophagy argue that since dried human placenta (Zi He Che 紫河车) has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine and term placenta has been found to contain various nutrients and hormones, consuming it after delivery should have positive health benefits. They claim that it can prevent postpartum depression, reduce post-delivery pain, boost energy levels, improve lactation, promote skin elasticity, enhance maternal bonding and replenish iron in the body.
Recent researches have proved otherwise.Although some nutrients and hormones are found in term placenta, their maintenance and stability in raw tissue and in preparation have yet been tested.In a review published in American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2017), the authors concluded that “there is no scientific evidence of any clinical benefit of placentophagy among humans, and no placental nutrients and hormones are retained in sufficient amounts after placenta encapsulation to be potentially helpful to the mother postpartum”.
In a recent case of a new-born baby who developed repeated bacterial infection after the mother had eaten contaminated placenta capsule, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA has also recommended that the intake of placenta capsules be avoided. They have issued a warning against such practice.Most women who want or expect to feel good after eating placenta do feel that way. But that may be just be a placebo effect.Follow Dr.Peter Chew’s articles on aLife’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/alife.org.sg as well as http://alife.org.sg/articles/.