Wellness

Would You Eat Your Placenta?

In case the headline wasn’t a big enough indicator, this subject is one that may initially have you a little, or a lot, grossed out. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

While not a new concept, placentophagia, or the act of eating your placenta, is one that has been increasingly featured in the media. After seeing a few features on the internet along with a snippet of coverage on the topic in the news, we had to do a little more exploring of the idea.

Some mommas may have an initial gut reaction of “absolutely not” and others might be under the impression of, “I’m not opposed, but I need to hear more on this one.”

No matter what your stance, I think we can all agree that motherhood and childbearing is one of the most natural experiences in a woman’s life, so shouldn’t we explore and navigate through some of the other activities that surround this experience?

We say, yes.

So if you’re wondering whether this is a practice you want to try, or you’ve already formed an opinion, but want a little background, here it is:

The Placenta

Also known as your afterbirth, the placenta is the organ that facilitates the essential-to-life processes a fetus needs to survive and develop. The placenta is typically about one inch thick and an average of nine inches long, and usually weighs around one pound.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “The placenta is responsible for working as a trading post between the mother’s and the baby’s blood supply. Small blood vessels carrying the fetal blood run through the placenta, which is full of maternal blood. Nutrients and oxygen from the mother’s blood are transferred to the fetal blood, while waste products are transferred from the fetal blood to the maternal blood, without the two blood supplies mixing.”

 

Roots of Placentophagia

Many mammalian animals eat their placenta following birth, which has provided historical and biological backing behind the practice.

However, these roots of placentophagia among wild animals has also been a counterargument as some people note that some animals also eat their young as well as eat their own excrement, which is obviously not something we partake in as humans.

Culturally, populations in Eastern countries have engaged in the practice of placentophagia without the controversy the topic has seen in Western culture.

 

Claimed Benefits

“Some mothers and midwives believe the placenta offers benefits that help recovery after birth – allowing women to regain energy, reduce bleeding, increase milk production and fight off “baby blues” or a more severe form of postpartum depression,” according to the article, Moms: Should You Eat Your Placenta?, in the U.S. News and World Report.

One thing important to note is that there have been very few studies and no definitive research showing the negative or positive effects of eating one’s placenta, and the practice is not regulated by the FDA.

Much of the information surrounding the topic of placentophagia is based on cultural tradition and anecdotal evidence from personal accounts and testimonies.

 

Methods of Consumption

Placenta can be consumed raw, cooked, or dried and encapsulated.

Most women that partake in placentophagia take their placenta in capsule form, however methods such as mixing in to smoothies to mask the taste and texture has become a more popular method in conversations on the topic.

 

As always, we love to know what our readers think on various issues and trends, and encourage informative, constructive feedback and discussion.

Health practices vary widely between cultures and societies, so we must acknowledge that although this may be something we choose to participate in or not, learning about these various practices widens our knowledge of common health experiences among women from all over the globe.

Let us know in the comments: have you personally experienced placentophagia, or are you planning to partake in this practice when you give birth?

 

Sources

American Pregnancy Association – http://americanpregnancy.org/duringpregnancy/fetallifesupportsystem.html

Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/placenta/art-20044425

New York Times – I Regret Eating My Placenta – http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/i-regret-eating-my-placenta/

U.S. News and World Report – Moms: Should You Eat Your Placenta? – http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/05/09/moms-should-you-eat-your-placenta

One Medical – http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/placentophagy/

 

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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