What do Kim Kardashian, January Jones, Alicia Silverstone, and Mayim Bialik have in common? Well besides being super famous awesome moms, they all ate their placentas! Now don’t get me wrong, they didn’t just toss their placentas in a pan with some olive oil and onions. They hired a placenta encapsulation specialist to turn their placenta into pills which they could ingest as a supplement for the first few weeks after delivery.
Eating your placenta may sound like a crazy idea and something only wacky celebrities do, but placentophagy (consuming your placenta) is practiced in many different cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have been using the placenta medicinally for over 2,000 years. In Vietnam, it is customary to cook the placenta for the new mother. Placentophagy is even common in the animal kingdom - most mammals eat their placentas right after they give birth!
Although research on placentophagy is still in its infancy, there is a small body of evidence beginning to develop that highlights the benefits of consuming your placenta. Many believe the placenta to be rich in nutrients that help the mother recover from childbirth.
Here are three reasons to consider encapsulating your placenta:
1. Encourages milk production
Due to the immense amount of human placental lactogen, prolactin, and estrogen (hormones that promote milk production) in the placenta, one of the best-known uses for the placenta in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to help with insufficient lactation. In 1954, researchers conducted a study on 210 women who had insufficient milk supply. The researchers gave dried placenta to the women and discovered that 86% of them had a positive increase in their milk production within a matter of days1.
2. Replenishes your iron levels and increases energy
Iron deficiency is common in postpartum women and can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, poor concentration, and depression which could make it hard to care for your newborn. Several studies have shown that consuming iron-rich substances can help in replenishing a postpartum woman's iron levels2, 3, 4. The placenta is completely natural substance made from your own body and is chock full of iron. The iron found in your placenta could give you a wonderful boost of energy needed to care for you and your baby.
3. Helps prevent and manage baby blues and postpartum depression
Approximately 80% of women experience some sort of postpartum mood imbalance. Your placenta is filled with the hormones oxytocin and CRH, which reduce stress and create feelings of bonding, pain relief, and happiness. Ingesting the placenta can treat the drop in female hormone levels seen after birth, enabling women to avoid many negative symptoms.
In my personal experience of encapsulating over 200 placentas, women who take placenta capsules report positive results in an overwhelming number of cases. Those who were already feeling "weepy" or experiencing other signs of the baby blues have felt better within a matter of days (sometimes even hours!) after taking their placenta pills. Women who eat their placenta report fewer emotional issues and enjoy a faster, more pleasant postpartum recovery.
The new scientific research is exciting, and we have only scratched the surface of the potential benefits of placentophagy. Placenta encapsulation is definitely worth considering as part of a holistic postpartum recovery process for any expecting woman.
What about you? Did you have your placenta encapsulated? Let us know your thoughts below!
1. Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.
2. John L. Beard,2 Michael K. Hendricks,* Eva M. Perez,* Laura E. Murray-Kolb, Astrid Berg,*
Lynne Vernon-Feagans,† James Irlam,* Washiefa Isaacs,* Alan Sive,* and Mark Tomlinson*
Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802; *School of Child and Adolescent Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; and †School of Education, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599
3. Lisa M. Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD,a,* Mary E. Cogswell, DrPH, RN,bThad McDonald, MDc
4. F Verdon, general practitioner1, B Burnand, senior lecturer2, C-L Fallab Stubi, pharmacist3, C Bonard, general practitioner1, M Graff, general practitioner1, A Michaud, general practitioner1, T Bischoff, general practitioner1, M de Vevey, general practitioner1, J-P Studer, general practitioner1, L Herzig, general practitioner1, C Chapuis, general practitioner1, J Tissot, general practitioner1, A Pécoud, professor3, B Favrat, consultant of internal medicine3 BMJ 2003;326:1124 (24 May), doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7399.1124