Mother and Baby

Are placenta pills safe and what are the benefits?

Section: Labour & Birth

The placenta provides nutrients to the baby via the umbilical cord, but can eating it provide you with similar benefits? Are post-birth placenta pills the secret wonder ingredient that will help you to feel revitalised, full of energy and can even 'prevent postnatal depression'?

Placenta pills upped in popularity after Mad Men actor January Jones credited them for her mere seven weeks(!) maternity leave. She defended her decision by saying, "It's not witch-crafty or anything! I suggest it to all moms!"

Kim Kardashian also is a fan and revealed she opted for 'grape' flavour following the birth of daughter North and son Saint. 

"My placenta was like double the size, it was really oddly big, so she gave me two jars" she explained during a Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode. 

Tempted? Here's your cheat sheet to placenta pills... 

What are placenta pills?

The placenta is an organ that 'looks like a piece of brisket'; says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology. It provides nutrients to the baby via the umbilical cord. 

Placenta encapsulation is where the placenta is made into pills, so it's easy to digest after birth. A placenta will yield anywhere between 90 – 250 capsules depending on the placenta. While there are many ways to eat a placenta, encapsulation is the most popular method. It definitely seems friendlier than a placenta smoothie... 

What are the benefits of placenta pills?

Although little research has been done around placenta encapsulation, we do know that the placenta is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, B12 and iron.

Coleen Rooney tweeted about the benefits, slamming claims it was 'gross' and witchcrafty'. She said: “I was never depressed or sad or down after the baby was born, so I'd highly suggest it to any pregnant woman."

Here are the possible benefits touted by a few of its advocates:

 

Expand Image

1) Increase oxytocin 

An increase of oxytocin can help the uterus to go back to normal and helps the bonding process with your newborn. 
 
Expand Image

2) Helps prevent anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. You lose a lot of blood during labour and anemia can lead to foggy thinking and low energy. 
Expand Image

3) Boosts breast milk 

Those who champion placenta-eating, say that it improves their breast milk supply. In a small study, 15% if mums said breastfeeding became easier following placenta encapsulation. 
Expand Image

4) Improves mood

Some say that consuming placenta pills can lift your mood and even help prevent postpartum depression in new mums, though this is often disputed.

"Placenta pills can tell your hormonal system not to create the tremendous drop in estrogen after birth that causes some women to be weepy or feel down," says midwife Claudia Brooker. 
Expand Image

5) More energy 

The high concentrate of vitamin B6 and B12 can help you feel less fatigued and more energised. 

Do placenta pills work? 

This has divided opinion, with a many healthcare professionals rubbishing the claims. A study in Nevada found that ingesting placenta pills did almost nothing to improve fatigue or ward off postnatal depression.They did, however, note there were small and detectable changes in hormone concentrations. 

Dr Sharon Young, lead author of the study and programme manager for UNLV's Office of Undergraduate Research, said: "While the study doesn't provide firm support for or against the claims about the benefits of placentophagy, it does shed light on this much-debated topic by providing the first results from a clinical trial specifically testing the impact of placenta supplements on postpartum hormones, mood, and energy.

Are they safe?

Although poised with lots of potential benefits, placenta encapsulation isn't protected by health standards and most of the saintly claims are anecdotal, from mums who have tried it. 

Placenta pills may be all the rage, but there is no hard evidence to support its adventurous claims. Not only are they unregulated, they come with a hefty price tag and will set you back around £200. 

What are the risks?

If the placenta was encapsulated incorrectly, it can harbour dangerous bacteria which can make you and your baby sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Placenta encapsulation comes with a few risks which are important to get clued up on:

  • Infections: Placentas can be easily contaminated as they aren't sterile and the process doesn't kill harmful pathogens.
  • Exposure to heavy metals: metals including lead and mercury can build up in the placenta during pregnancy. The pills can expose you to low doses of the metal, which can be harmful if taken over a long period. 
  • Blood clots: Women have a higher chance of developing a blood clot in the first few weeks of motherhood and taking placenta tablets which contain estrogen, can increase levels of clotting factors in the blood. 

If you think you might want to have your placenta encapsulated, it's best to talk to your GP or midwife.

Now read:

6 ways to eat your placenta (if you really want to!)

The different pregnancy hormones explained

Have you tried placenta pills? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Alongside her role as the Digital Editor at Mother&Baby, Aimee runs the #mumtribe Facebook group and leads the M&B Awards content strategy.


Winner of Immediate Media Award for 'Magazine Journalist of the Year 2016. Her hobbies include truffle mac and cheese, Class Pass and relentlessly checking (and scolding!) the weather app.

You may also like