Ingesting your placenta. Is it beneficial?

It has been suggested that there are potentially some benefits to be gained by ingesting the placenta following the birth of your child. These include possibly increased bonding with your child, reduced likelihood of postnatal depression, increased energy levels after the birth and perhaps increased breast milk production. If you have ever seen a placenta you may have formed the view that this would not be a very palatable experience. This is where placental encapsulation comes in. In a dried form your placenta is made into capsules which you can then swallow with a glass of water or whatever other beverage takes your fancy.

However is there any evidence to support any of these claims of benefit? An article published last week by BBC – Health helps to shed some light on this topic. Below is an excerpt from the article which appeared in the UK Daily Mail

“There is no scientific evidence that eating the placenta after childbirth can protect women against depression and boost energy, US research suggests.”

“But a review by Northwestern University found no proven benefits and no research on the potential risks.”

“The researchers said the popularity of eating placentas had risen in the last few years but this may have been due to women being influenced by media reports, blogs and websites.”

“Their review, published in Archives of Women’s Mental Health, looked at 10 published studies related to placenta eating”.

“Some are also convinced that it replenishes iron stores in the body, but the research team said this was based on subjective reports rather than scientific research.”

“The review also said there were no studies which looked at the risks of eating the placenta.”

“As a result, the scientists said, bacteria or viruses could remain within the placenta tissues after birth.

Lead study author Cynthia Coyle, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University, said: “Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants.”

So… the absence of any evidence of benefit, and with no evidence on which to make a judgement about risk or safety, it would hard to support this course of action.

Addit: another article appeared on this topic today, in MJA InSight (29/6/15) by Dr Sue Ieraci titled “Placenta placebo”, the following quote is from her article

“Yes, many mammals eat their placenta. Many lick their offspring clean, and carry them around by the scruff of the neck. Some even eat them. Naturally.
But they never write blogs about it. Or even share recipes.”