The practice of women eating their placentas after giving birth is known as placentophagia. It’s often practiced in home births and alternative health communities.
Interest in placentophagia has gained momentum since Hollywood celebrities shared they’ve eaten their placentas after giving birth.
Is it safe to eat your placenta? Keep reading to learn more about what experts and proponents of the practice are saying.
Humans are one of the few mammals who don’t routinely eat their placentas. Camels, llamas, and marine mammals are other known exceptions.
Supporters claim the benefits of placentophagia include:
- improving lactation
- preventing postpartum depression
- relieving pain
- bonding with your baby
- increasing energy
There are a variety of ways women prepare the placenta for consumption. These include:
- steaming and dehydrating the placenta and making it into capsules
- boiling the placenta and eating it like a piece of meat
- adding the placenta to a smoothie
Some women eat the placenta raw, immediately after birth. Some people add herbs or other ingredients to their placenta. You can also find recipes online.
The internet is full of anecdotal placenta-eating stories, both positive and negative. In a survey published in Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 76 percent of 189 female respondents had a positive experience eating their placenta.
Some reported negative effects, including:
- unpleasant taste and odor of the placenta or placenta capsules
- increased vaginal bleeding
- increased uterine contractions
- digestive issues
- increase in amount and intensity of hot flashes
- increased anxiety
There’s little definitive scientific research on the benefits and safety of placentophagia. Many of the studies that do exist are dated or focus on the practice of placentophagia among nonhuman mammals.
If you decide to eat your placenta, there are some things you should consider to make the process safe.
The placenta is like any other organ meat. It can spoil and harbor dangerous bacteria. If you aren’t processing and eating it right away, freeze it until you’re ready to use it.
It’s unclear whether the placenta loses its potency and nutritional benefits when steamed or boiled. Keep this in mind as you consider preparation methods.
There’s also concern that women experiencing postpartum depression may rely on eating their placenta for relief instead of seeking professional help. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- loss of appetite
- intense irritability and anger or sadness and hopelessness
- severe mood swings
- difficulty bonding with your baby
- feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you eat your placenta and then find your depression worsens, consult your doctor.
And be sure you understand potential side effects. If you start to feel sick or have negative side effects, stop eating the placenta and immediately call your doctor.
Is it safe to eat your placenta? The verdict is still out. Eating your placenta may increase your risk of contracting a severe infection. On the other hand, it may contribute to small improvements in mood and fatigue. Additional research is needed.
Since side effects may be serious, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons and your personal health situation before eating your placenta.