Placenta Encapsulation: What Is It, Benefits, & Is It Safe?
Kim and Kourtney Kardashian did it. January Jones did it so did Alicia Silverstone – placentas are trending!
If this is your first time hearing about human placentophagy (the official term for eating your placenta) you’re probably having a Sandy and Sandra Gogglebox moment right now.
What is the Placenta?
The placenta is a temporary organ that transports nutrients and oxygen to your baby during pregnancy and removes waste from your baby. It comes out soon after your baby is born and is sometimes called the ‘afterbirth’.
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Before you start imagining scenes from the Walking Dead most women who partake in placentophagy don’t chow down on the organ itself (although some will have a slice made into a smoothie, kinda takes ‘juicing’ to a whole other level!). Or you can throw it in the pan with some onions or make a placenta lasagna. The service that will process your placenta collects it from your home/hospital and takes it to their kitchen (or in some cases yours) drains the blood, cut off the blood vessels (etc etc) makes a placenta powder and puts it into capsules to take in the postpartum weeks as you recover from birth.
Why is this trend gaining popularity?
Anecdotally women claim they have more energy and have a better mood after taking their placenta pills.
Service providers claim the following benefits:
- Balanced mood
- Increased iron
- Reduces hair loss after pregnancy
- Increases milk supply
- Clearer skin
Is there any science to back up the claims?
No. There has been no robust scientific trials to support these claims. In the most recent small randomized controlled study on iron levels, women who took the placenta pills had no improved iron levels whether they were taking placenta pills or the pills with ground up beef. Most mums have a decline in their haemoglobin levels right after birth (not unusual) but whether they were taking the placebo with beef or the placenta encapsulation, their anemia got better and their iron levels improved in both groups.
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Another study confirmed that there were 15 hormones found in 28 placentas tested so the question is, should we be taking hormones that the body has expelled after birth?
Is it safe?
Natural doesn’t always mean good and there have also been reports of women experiencing reduced milk supply, increased headaches and increased anxiety when taking placenta pills. If you notice any unpleasant side effects stop taking the pills immediately. It’s also an unregulated food preparation service but unlike a restaurant, if flies under the Department of Health’s radar so. We all have different ideas of what ‘walking distance is’ - the same goes for the individual definition of a ‘clean’ kitchen. Some service providers have a dedicated kitchen built to provide the service so that gets big points from me. The US government recently advised parents not to consume their placenta after bacteria (Group B Strep) was found in a mothers placenta pills. There have been no official reports of illness from placenta pills in Ireland.
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Some Questions to Ask
As a new and unregulated industry, be sure to do your homework when it comes to choosing a service provider.
- What kind of training and certification do you have?
- Where will my placenta be prepared? Who has access to the area? Are pets removed during processing?
- Do you use medical grade equipment?
- How is your equipment cleaned (critical importance as this is a blood product)?
What else can I do with my placenta?
- Donate your placenta to a rescue service that will use it to train dogs in human remains detection training
- In some cultures burying the placenta is traditional. If you have a garden plant it under a rose bush or a tree (deep enough so the local wildlife can’t get it).
- Make placenta art (some mums like to make prints or cord keepsakes).
The milk bank can not accept breast milk donations for sick babies if you have consumed your placenta.
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Feature Image Source: Instagram(@kimkardashian)