Placentophagy, the practice of eating the placenta post birth, cannot be proven to provide any health benefits to the mother and may actually be detrimental to the mother and child if the mother is breast feeding. Dr. Crystal Clark, assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a specialist in reproduction-related mood disorders, is the first to complete a rigorous scientific study of the practice of placentophagy in the United States.
Clark found that the practice of eating that placenta has increased in women since 1970. The practice has been spurred on by celebrities’ claims of multiple benefits from eating the placenta. The research indicates that the practice has been adopted based on anecdotal evidence from the media and social media.
Many animals consume the placenta. The placenta provides a mother an instant source of nourishment after the labor of birth. Consuming the placenta also erases the evidence of birth and may protect the young from predators.
Clark found that all claims of benefits from eating the placenta could not be substantiated in humans. Eating the placenta does not prevent postpartum depression, does not improve lactation, does not reduce post-birth pain, does not provide an iron source for the blood loss involved in birth, does not improve bonding between a mother and child, and does not make the skin more elastic. The practice has grown due to promotion that has no physical evidence to back it up.
Clark found that eating the placenta can be dangerous. Placentophagy can involve eating the placenta raw, cooking the placenta, or eating the placenta in parts in capsules. The danger lies in how the placenta is stored and disease that could develop under poor storage conditions. These diseases can be transferred to newborns through mother’s milk or skin contact. Clark expresses astonishment at women that are careful about what they eat when pregnant and nursing being willing to accept a know-nothing celebrity’s claim about health.