Childbirth is a fascinating occurrence as a tiny being enters the world through an even tinier opening. The entire process is extremely strenuous and takes a lot from the female body in terms of energy and nutrients. It can also leave physical scars as well. Women also lose almost all control of their bodily functions during the process and things can become really messy really quickly.
And the troubles do not end at childbirth. In fact, it only gets more interesting after that. The state of the US healthcare system and its inability to control and reduce the number of maternal deaths is disheartening, to say the least. America is in first place when it comes to the number of maternal deaths in a developed country. What is even more troubling is the fact that 60 percent of those deaths can be avoided. Because of all this, people are more and more willing to turn to alternative medicine for various ailments they might have.
There is nothing wrong with trying alternative ways to heal your body or mind, but some lines have to be drawn. One such treatment that is becoming more popular is the eating of human placentas.
Like most fads, this one was also created and spread by the upper middle class. Similar to diets like paleo or keto, the process of eating placentas is backed by mostly subjective opinions and research and lacks any kind of real scientific evidence.
The process of eating the placenta is called placentophagia and it is a common occurrence in the animal kingdom. But the fact that other mammals do it does not mean it is healthy for humans.
One case that scientists often use to back this statement dates from September 2016. An infant was admitted to the emergency room on several occasions within a relatively short amount of time, always with the seemingly same infection. And every time the doctors thought the baby was cured it returned to the hospital in the same shape as before, with the same infection. Doctors were unable to understand how something like this was possible; especially with the number of antibiotics the mother and the baby were administered. Luckily one of the doctors realized the mother requested that her placenta is saved for later use. Turns out the placenta pills had been contaminated. This case is often used as a cautionary example. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention uses this case in order to discourage other couples from doing something similar. The consumption of this organ is dangerous no matter who prepared it and in which way and should only be consumed under strict supervision.
What boggles the mind, even more, is the fact that almost none of those health benefits that proponents of this treatment like to mention have been verified. One of the theories is that eating the human placenta can help with postpartum depression. Some people claim that they speed up physical recovery. They also claim that placenta is capable of restoring your iron levels and that the fact that we are not consuming our placentas is a simple evolutionary mishap.
But if claims like this are correct, then who is to say we should not handle our feces in the same way as monkeys do?
Facts About the Placenta
The placenta is an organ. It contains various bacteria and other microorganisms. Eating the placenta means also to consume those bacteria that are residing within the organ. Chances are some, but probably most of those bacteria, are harmful to a person in some way. It is true that they are not harmful to you while the placenta is still carrying the unborn child but consuming them after the fact most probably is. Since the placenta is first dried and then produced as medicine in the form of a gel capsule, chances are that the bacteria within has multiplied considerably. On the other hand, if people really want to mimic what other mammals do then the best way to consume a placenta is to eat it raw immediately after birth. But people are much more open to consuming pills than a fresh organ. Never mind that those pills still contain a part of the human body.
The dangerous part of this whole process is the fact the FDA has no say in the creation of these pills because human placenta pills are still considered supplements and not real medicine.
Only one study from 1902 claimed that women who consumed their own placenta reported instances of higher milk production. There are no controls that can verify this, and no study since was able to replicate results like these.
There is still a lot of research to be done on this issue, but at this point in time, it is definitely not worth the risk. If postpartum issues are your concern, visit your closest clinic and request professional help. Do not trust people who want a quick buck.