You may have heard of a strange but growing trend – consuming your baby’s placenta after birth. Touted by some celebrities, midwives and doulas, eating placenta – either raw, cooked or dried and encapsulated – has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Women rave about rapid recovery from birth, increased milk production, prevention of postpartum depression and more energy.
While personal experiences praise the power of the placenta, a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University has found that there are no evident benefits of a mother consuming placenta, suggesting that the positive reviews may be in part a placebo effect. The researchers reviewed ten different published studies that examined the outcomes of mothers who consumed the placenta.
If you’re on the line about placenta encapsulation, here are three facts to consider first:
- Though it’s true that other mammals eat their afterbirth, it’s never been a widely accepted human cultural practice. Traditional Chinese medicine texts mention placental preparations, but it’s not clear if these were specifically for the mother or not. Maternal consumption of placentas didn’t actually become popular until the 1970s in America, when some midwives recommended the practice.
- A placenta is a life-support system for your growing child. While it provides nutrients and iron-rich blood to your baby, it also filters waste that your baby doesn’t need. Some placentas may have bacterial infections, residual meconium (aka baby poo) or be laden with heavy metals. You should strongly consider the risks of consuming such substances.
- Perhaps most worrying to conscientious pregnancy care physicians, new moms may overly rely on the placenta as a way to protect themselves against postpartum depression, which can be a dangerous bet for both mother and baby. Postpartum depression is a serious medical condition. All pregnant women should know their risk for PPD and have a plan with their doctor, beyond placental preparations, in the case that symptoms appear after birth.
It would be nice if a woman’s placenta solved so many potential postpartum health issues. But maternal health and the transition to motherhood aren’t always so simple.
At All About Women, we believe that making sure you have a supportive maternity team is a good starting place for ensuring the best outcomes for you and your baby. Contact us today in Gainesville or the Lake City area to discuss your postnatal concerns.