Why on earth would anyone eat their own placenta? Lots of women have reported amazing benefits. But are they scientifically sound, or is it just the placebo effect?
Lots of women swear by the nutritional benefits of consuming their placenta. Others say it’s all hippie nonsense. So, just what is the truth about eating afterbirth?
Ideas about curbing baby blues and even staving off postnatal depression are the chief attractions of eating placenta for many women around the world. It’s also believed to increase milk production, replenish low levels of iron, and reduce postnatal bleeding. Even celebs are into it – January Jones made headlines when she ate her placenta in capsule form, and claimed to have avoided baby blues and felt full of energy.
What's in your placenta?
The placenta nourishes your baby during pregnancy, so by the end of the nine months it’s full of vitamins – including vitamin B6, which is known to help combat depression. Sure, it might be a bit icky, but if it beats baby blues, why not? Especially when you have prep options ranging from placenta smoothies to having yours made into tablets.
Well, the jury’s still out. ‘There is no scientific evidence at all for any of the supposed benefits of eating placenta, whether whole or in capsule form,’ says Fiona Ford, dietitian for the British Dietetic Association. ‘The placenta is full of vitamins, but there’s no guarantee that – even though they’re in large amounts – they’re going to the right place and doing the right job.’ Another issue is that eating raw meat (bet you never thought a bit of you would be described that way…) could give you food poisoning. And cooking could alter the proteins and hormones in the placenta, so you may not end up getting many vitamins, anyway. So what about all the women who say eating their placenta – in whatever form – works for them?
Fiona believes it’s a placebo effect – if you believe it will work, it often does. Placebo effects are not to be sniffed at, though, they can be very powerful. ‘Eating the placenta can be a very positive thing for a woman to do psychologically, if she really believes it will work,’ says Fiona. ‘But the scientific evidence simply isn’t there yet.’
So, what’s the placenta alternative?
An alternative to eating placenta is to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes protein or good sources of iron to keep your strength up. Omega 3, 6 and 9 vitamins are important too, to boost your energy, mood and healing. They can be found in nuts, vegetable oils, avocados, olives and oily fish such as mackerel and herring. New mum sleep deprivation can leave you feeling low, too, so it’s important to look after yourself. ‘If you’ve suffered from depression in the past, keep an eye out for recurring symptoms and ask friends and family to do the same,’ says Fiona. Taking it easy, whether you tuck into your placenta or not, is just what you need.