8 REASONS TO NOT EAT YOUR PLACENTA
Written by Katie
The latest fad in pregnancy: Placenta encapsulation
A big part of me thought I would encapsulate my placenta to consume post-birth. I had been seeing Instagram mamas I admire for a few years leading up to my pregnancy who swore by this practice, describing the countless benefits it (apparently) offers including increased milk supply, iron, B12, energy, reduced risk of postpartum depression and more. It’s for these reasons that I too wanted to encapsulate my placenta… I mean, all those benefits? Why wouldn’t I, right?
Then, when I became pregnant, there were a lot of other things on my mind (growing a fetus is a lot of work!) that I didn’t start thinking about placenta-encapsulation until month three or four… and it was a decision that didn’t come naturally or right away to me, which was sort of a red flag, as I’m a pretty definite decision maker.
Because the decision wasn’t coming easy, and that I was very focused on listening to my intuition, I started to research via a vast range of sources: podcasts, reviews, articles, studies and first hand accounts from Youtubers and Instagramers. I even contacted a local Doula who capsules placenta, and asked for references who I then contacted and received feedback from (one positive, one negative). Also, my personal Doula who was with us during my pregnancy and birth wasn't an advocate. Another red flag, as I really truly trusted her thoughts and opinions.
Clearly, placenta eating was not a cut-and-dry-100%-miracle-worker. There are a lot of woman who swear by it and a lot of woman who have had bad experiences.
In the end, and at 7 months pregnant, I decided that consuming my placenta was not right for me.
HERE IS WHY I DECIDED NOT TO CONSUME OR ENCAPSULATE MY PLACENTA:
1. THE EVIDENCE DOESN’T SUPPORT THE BENEFICIAL CLAIMS
The reasons woman consume their placenta comes from a wonderful place, because the claim is that there are countless benefits mom’s experience. Some of these benefits listed by the AmericanPregnancy.org include:
- Increased release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to normal size and encourages bonding with the infant
- Increase in CRH, a stress-reducing hormone
- Decrease in post-partum depression levels
- Restoration of iron levels in the blood
- Increase in milk production
However, these reasons are listed as POSSIBLE or POTENTIAL benefits, with this list being prefaced by “There is little scientific research available regarding placental encapsulation and consumption”.
Well, now there has been research done by organizations such as the B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services’ Research Institute and the University of B.C, and it contradicts the above list:
“A new study followed 138 women with a history of mood disorders for a decade, and found no differences in depression, vitamin B12 levels, energy or ease of breastfeeding between mothers who’d eaten placenta and those who didn’t.”
And while I don’t always agree or base decisions solely on scientific or medical research, this interested me and provided another perspective on the topic that aided in my decision not to more forward with this current trend/fad.
2. I’M VEGAN
Another reason I felt “off” about consuming placenta was that I’m not a meat or organ eater, and haven’t been for over 5 years.
I eat plants and I love plants. I made a conscious decision to not consume meat five years ago, primarily from an ethical standpoint. I believe in only eating plants to the bottom of my core, it’s truly a deep passion of mine.
So, when it came to the thought of eating one of my organs (which is sort of a form of cannibalism… if you think about it), it just didn’t sit well with me.
3. THE PLACENTA IS PARTIALLY A WASTE TOOL
The placenta is such a fascinating organ with many purposes. Predominantly, it’s responsible for two actions:
- Providing oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby through the umbilical cord
- Removes waste products from your baby’s blood and prevents mama’s toxins to reach baby
Because the placenta is used as a place to store and remove waste, it contains toxins, hormones, harmful bacteria and other contaminations that could cause infection and illness to mama and baby.
But a thought struck me: why would I eat an organ that contains waste and potential toxins, that wanted out of my body literally through birth, just for me to consume it again? I don’t know… that thought didn’t sit well with me either.
4. THE WAY PEOPLE ARE CONSUMING PLACENTA ISN’T TYPICALLY DONE THE NATURAL OR RAW/”ANIMALISTIC” WAY
I found this great article titled: The risk of eating placenta is not worth it, warns experts which included this quote:
“In almost all mammals, the placenta – the organ that develops in pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the baby and remove waste products – is eaten by the mother immediately after giving birth. Humans and aquatic mammals are the only exceptions.”
It is not safe for a human mother to eat her placenta, raw and bloody, post-birth like every other mammal in the wild does. So, if I’m not willing to eat it that way, why would I eat it at all?
So, if one of the reasons you want to consume your placenta is because you think it’s natural, well… the way you would be doing it is not. Nor has it been proven that it is safe for a woman to consume her placenta raw and bloody immediately post-birth.
6. THE PLACEBO EFFECT
What’s interesting, is that all the woman I “follow” on social media who capsuled their placenta have been extremely healthy vegan mamas, with healthy pregnancies and healthy births. They drank water, ate organic, ate vegan whole foods, exercised etc. So, the fact that they had healthy post-baby experiences does not come as a surprise… at all.
My opinion is that these mamas attribute their healthy post-partums to consuming their placenta, but it’s more likely the fact that they are healthy to begin with and would have always had healthy post-partums.
Without knowing for sure of course, this is just an outsiders perspective and theory, but I think these woman were experience a type of placebo effect.
7. CELEBRITY FAD OVER ANCIENT PRACTICE
Capsuling and consuming placenta is a recent fad, within the last 10 years.
“Eating the placenta after giving birth has become something of a fad, with celebrity couple Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen being the latest to talk about sampling their afterbirth. Kim Kardashian has even posted photos on Twitter of her freeze-dried and encapsulated placenta” says this article by Live science.
Truth be told, I don’t love fads nor do I follow them. I typically prefer to pave my own path, follow my intuition and do what’s right for me. Whether it’s a clothing fad or a pregnancy fad, I’m not one to jump on board.
Consuming placenta for the purpose of postpartum depression, increased milk supply, restored iron levels and more do not appear to go back to ancient Chinese practices as most people think. The New York Times published this article: Thank you for not eating your placenta, that discusses this topic:
“Many biologically implausible or under-tested therapies, like homeopathy, naturopathy and reiki, are presented as ancient, but the oldest of the bunch is homeopathy and that dates to the early 1800s. Reiki is from the early 1900s, and placentophagy is even more recent. While it is unclear when exactly the modern practice of human placentophagy started, among the first reports in medical literature is one from 1973, It refers to an experience recounted in Rolling Stone in 1972 involving a delivery on a commune where the placenta was steamed after delivery and then eaten by the mother and “shared with friends.”
8. IT'S NOT CHEAP
Getting your placenta made into teas or capsules isn't cheap, and can run any where from $250-$350 here in Canada. I'm sure you can find cheaper or more expensive options, but that seems to be the average. And while it's not an astronomical cost, it's still at a price I wasn't willing to pay for given everything I've already mentioned!
AND THOSE ARE THE EIGHT PRIMARY REASONS WHY I DECIDED NOT TO GO DOWN THIS ROUTE, AND I FEEL REALLY HAPPY WITH MY DECISION. BUT IF PLACENTA-EATING FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU, DO IT, WE ARE ALL ON OUR OWN JOURNEY.
OTHER RECOURSES THAT HELPED WITH MY DECISION:
1. YOUTUBE: I really love this video by Meagan Moon, which really spoke to me:
2. POST CAST: This podcast that simply describes what the placenta is was also enlightening. It does not advocate on either side of the spectrum: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/in-bloom-podcast/id1446533627?i=1000431268790
Hope this helps!