What is an Afterbirth (Placenta)?
The placenta or a more euphemistic term, afterbirth, is an organ that is usually attached on the upper part of the uterus (sometimes lower), as it connects the unborn baby through the umbilical cord. It acts as the ultimate source of supply and a filter for the baby as oxygen, blood, hormones and nutrients are passed through the umbilical cord from the placenta. Therefore it is absolutely crucial for the mother to watch her health so it can maintain a healthy placenta.
The placenta is fully formed by 18 to 20 weeks, but continues to develop with the baby until birth, but just because it’s the end of the placenta doesn’t mean it’s the end of the process of supplementing. Although there hasn’t been a strong case of scientific evidence to prove “consuming” one’s own placenta is beneficial, there is a culture that has grown to stand firm by this practice generating a trend and a market.
Placentophagy: Eating of the Placenta After Giving Birth
Although this term is generally directed towards animals, the motive behind the animals is similar for the people accepting placentophagy:
- The nutrients supplying the baby in the womb still remains after birth, therefore it can be seen as a natural way to help mothers with postpartum pregnancy.
Taking this statement at a face value makes perfect sense where many cultures in various parts of the world have or had taken such practice to account. With TV shows and celebrities bringing up the idea of placentophagy which the western culture deems afterbirths as byproducts, this practice has now generated a trend that has divided the public opinion with scientific reason.
Different Ways to Consume Afterbirth
It is imperative that no mother eat another mother’s placenta due to health hazards. Many hospitals consider placentas as bio-hazard so if you’re considering on taking the afterbirth home, plan ahead by contacting your hospital.
Now, things can get bit disturbing when it comes to different methods of eating a placenta. Just finding an image online of eating placentas can ruin a days worth of appetites, but this popular trend has opened the refrigerator door to create interesting ways to eat placentas.
- Make a smoothie with fruits and juices
- Placenta Lasagna
- Placenta Truffles
- Go raw. Eat it raw with seasoning
- Placenta pills
One mother decided to share her process of “How to eat your placenta” with photos. (Warning: Some of the photos may contain some graphic images. Viewer discretion advised)
Benefits of Eating Afterbirth
Here are some of the attractive benefits that are claimed from eating a placenta:
- Reduces postpartum pregnancy depression
- Supports lactation
- Control postpartum pain
- Helps with iron deficiency anemia
Placenta Benefits.info is an organization that was launched back in 2006 by Jodi Selander, and to this day it has taken strong measures to educate and help women who are interested with placentophagy. They have serviced women all over America with testimonials posted online that shares in-dept views of positive results.
Scientific and Medical View
To see how popular the trend was, researchers looked into the Google Trend, and to their surprise there was a surprising find on how prevalent the idea of eating a placenta was due to the benefits that came with it. However as advocates lay out their facts and scientific research on supporting the cause, there seems to be a whole different result from the other side that shows no evidence on any health benefits for humans to perform placentophagy.
“The bottom line is that there are no human studies that show a benefit to eating the placenta.” – Cynthia Coyle, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
To this day, there hasn’t been a case to end the debate because many of the testimonies and studies were subjective, which causes the whole argument of whether if this could be a placebo effect. Many of the positive experiences are from anecdotal experiences which makes it uncertain and unlikely for anyone in the field of science to accept it as hard fact.
As proponents state eating their own placenta is safe and natural, placenta pills that are the popular choice, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration therefore people who buy placenta capsule should consult with their doctors or even take the time to research the ingredients inside. Another note to keep in mind is placenta tissues have been found to have bacteria which can be harmful if consumed.
To Eat or Not To Eat?
Although many of placentophagy experiences are positive, some people have shared negative results.
One mother had trouble sleeping and was hyper-stimulated as she took placenta capsules. Another mother has posted a YouTube video on her experience with eating placenta and she found her mood to swing up and down, a contradiction to the benefits of placentophagy. On 2012, one mother posted a thoroughly documented experience of her own attempt with placenta pills on The New York Times titled “I Regret Eating My Placenta”
Although the internet has an anecdotal trove of success stories, the evidence through scientific research for humans practicing placentophagia is little to none. However as mentioned from previous studies, the bottom line to placentophagy is it is neither beneficial nor harmful for mothers undergoing this practice.
Until there is a scientific evidence with clinical tests and trials to determine if eating one’s own afterbirth is beneficial or not, it will be a personal choice for now, but if your appetite craves for placenta after labor, please eat it with precaution.
Featured photo credit: Didriks via flickr.com