The decision to eat your newborn’s placenta makes some people a bit squeamish, but not everyone is turned off by the idea. Cooking, drying or blending and then consuming the placenta, while likely rare, is a growing trend among some women. In fact a new piece in New York magazine, The Placenta Cookbook, delves into women who have taken the plunge into the practice of placentophagia, or eating the placenta along with providing a 4-step instructional on how to cook a placenta. Research shows that placentophagia is almost universal in both carnivorous and herbivorous mammals, so maybe the animal kingdom has caught on to something human mammals are missing. Still, Mark Kristal, one of the only known authorities on placentophagia, tells New York magazine that the practice of placenta consumption among humans was first seen in the seventies, and goes on to say. “It’s a New Age phenomenon. Every ten or twenty years people say, ‘We should do this because it’s natural and animals do it.’ But it’s not based on science. It’s a fad.

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Not entirely a fad – benefits of eating the placenta

Not everyone agrees with Kristal. Jodi Selander for example, has made a career of selling women on the idea of placenta consumption and sells DIY Placenta Encapsulation kits via her website Placenta Benefits. Of course, most would agree that there’s a world of difference between swallowing the placenta in capsule form vs. eating it raw, drinking it or making it into jerky, yet some women are doing just that. New York magazine looks at women who toss placenta chunks into smoothies or enjoy their placenta in a juice cocktail and even discusses one family who served up placenta jerky to their friends at a house party. Currently, there is zero scientific data on the benefits of eating the placenta if you happen to be human. Science aside though, many placentophagia advocates swear that the placenta has some real health benefits for new mothers, such as:

  • Reduced likelihood of postpartum depression symptoms.
  • Regulation of hormones and stops excessive blood flow – if eaten raw soon after a birth.
  • Helps to increase energy stores and breast milk production.
  • Infuses a new mom with iron and other vitamins, such as B6.

Keep in mind that the above benefits are theory and experience based vs. research based. No large scale human studies about eating the placenta have, as of yet, been conducted.

Is it dangerous to eat the placenta?

Momlogic spoke with Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz who noted that it’s safe to eat the placenta so long as the mother didn’t have any serious infections during labor and also is free from transmittable infectious disease such as hepatitis or HIV. The FDA is concerned about women ingesting their placenta, but more because they feel placenta capsule suppliers are making false medical claims that may confuse mothers. Back in 2007, FDA spokeswoman Kris Mejia told USA Today that, “Human placental capsules that make treatment claims….must be accompanied by well-designed and controlled clinical studies to support approval/licensure.” Still, along with a lack of helpful studies on the benefits of placentophagia, there’s also no studies that say it’s harmful. Right now, placenta eating is kind of like breast milk soap – another debated DIY home project. Placentophagia is probably safe, but there’s no proven benefits, so it’s clearly a case-by-case choice of the mother. If you’re comfortable with the idea, you’re free to try and if not you can still find other fun ways to use your placenta.

+ The Placenta Cookbook

+ Placenta Recipes

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