Many people, in the birth world, have their own opinion about placentas and if it is beneficial for a new parent to consume their placenta in the form of capsules after the birth of their baby, to aid in postpartum healing. Let's go over some FACTS VS. FICTION.
1. There are toxic heavy metals found in the placenta that have been filtered out of the blood before going to the fetus
Even though the blood passes through the placenta from the mother to the fetus, it is not a filter and it doesn’t store heavy metals. While there are studies that show trace amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and uranium found in the placental tissue, a daily recommended dose of placenta capsules can provide, on average, 24% of the RDA of iron, 7.1% of selenium, 1.5% of zinc, and 1.4% of copper (Young et al, 2016).
2. Only wild animals eat their afterbirth so that the smell doesn’t attract preditors.
Most mammals partake in placentophagy. The reason is unknown but there are some theories. One theory for this behavior is pain relief after birth. Placentas carry a hormone called placental opioid-enhancing factor, which supports the release of endogenous opioids for a pain-reducing eﬀect (Joseph, Giovinazzo, & Brown, 2016). There is also research that shows placentophagy enhances maternal behavior and therefore can strengthen the mother to baby bond (Joseph, Giovinazzo, & Brown, 2016). A third reason for placentophagy is to replenish the nutrients and hormones the mother lost during and after birth (Hart Hayes, 2016).
3. Eating you own placenta is a form of cannibalism.
Since “cannibalism” is the consumption of another person’s flesh, placenta encapsulation doesn’t technically fall into this category (“cannibal,” 2018). The placenta is an organ of the mother and the mother is the one consuming the capsules. Therefore, it would be a stretch to consider consuming placenta capsules a form of cannibalism.
4. Heating and processing the placenta destroy all of the beneficial nutrients and hormones.
Many people, especially those who follow the Raw Foods movement, believe bringing foods up to a high heat will break down and destroy the beneficial nutrients found in the food. This thought can be applied to the preparation of the placenta in making capsules. There are studies that do look at the make up of the placenta before and after heating (Phuapradit et al., 2000). It has been found that the important nutrients and hormones are still intact after steaming and dehydrating. With this being said, if you prefer your placenta to only be dehydrated, without steaming, or if you prefer raw placenta cubes that can easily be added to a smoothie, let me know.
5. There are no actual scientific studies showing the benefits of placenta encapsulation.
As you can see from this blog post, as well as my “Common Questions and Answers about Placenta Encapsulations and Consumption” post, I used a number of studies focusing on placentophagy. There are other studies I did not reference here and there are additional studies currently being completed. If you have any questions or would like to look into additional studies, please let me know and I will provide you with resources.
cannibal | Definition of cannibal in US English by Oxford Dictionaries. (2018). Retrieved January 16, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/cannibal
Hart Hayes, E. (2016). Consumption of the Placenta in the Postpartum Period. JOGNN, 45, 78–89.
Joseph, R., Giovinazzo, M., & Brown, M. (2016). A Literature Review on the Practice of Placentophagia. Nursing for Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/362877404/Awhonn-Article
Phuapradit, W., Chanrachakul, B., Thuvasethakul, P., Leelaphiwat, S., Sassanarakkit, S., & Chanworachaikul, S. (2000). Nutrients and hormones in heat-dried human placenta. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet Thangphaet, 83(6), 690–694.
placentophagia review.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~kristal/placentophagia%20review.pdf
Young, S. M., Gryder, L. K., David, W. B., Teng, Y., Gerstenberger, S., & Benyshek, D. C. (2016). Human placenta processed for encapsulation contains modest concentrations of 14 trace minerals and elements. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), 36(8), 872–878. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2016.04.005