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To Eat the Placenta or Not to Eat the Placenta?

To Eat the Placenta or Not to Eat the Placenta?

Placentophagia  – eating the placenta after giving birth – is ubiquitous among all mammals except for humans, but there’s a growing movement of women who want to eat the placenta for its purported health benefits.

As I’ve been reading up on this practice, I’ve been going back and forth between the ick factor and thinking it kind of makes sense. Proponents of placentophagia say that it helps with mother-child bonding, can stave of postpartum depression, and can help the body heal after childbirth.

The placenta also contains natural opioids, which scientists think can help with some of the pain mothers experience post childbirth, and it also contains nutrients and hormones that could help with post-birth symptoms like the ones listed above.

For human mothers, eating the placenta began to gain popularity in the 1970s.

Why Don’t Humans Eat the Placenta?

While there is a growing movement of women who are saving their placentas to eat after childbirth, it’s not an instinctual human practice like it is in other mammals. Why is that? The short answer to this question is that we don’t know, but I was able to find some ideas from scientists on why humans generally don’t eat the placenta.

One reason scientists believe that other mammals eat the placenta is to replenish lost nutrients like protein and iron. Because of our modern diets, these nutrients are not as hard to come by, so one reason that we may not eat the placenta is that we have other food available that contains similar nutrients.

Some scientists think that eating the placenta has nothing to do with nutrients but is about cleaning the area and not attracting predators. In a hospital setting or home birth, there is no urgency to protect your young from wild predators, which may be part of why human mothers don’t feel compelled to eat the placenta.

The Modern Placentophagia Movement

Since the 1970s, eating the placenta has become part of the alternative medicine culture, and many women request to keep their placenta after giving birth. Rather than tearing into the raw placenta right after delivery, mothers usually hire a placenta specialist who cooks or dehydrates the afterbirth so that the mother can eat it for weeks – sometimes even months – following delivery.

From what I’ve read, placenta pills are the most common way to ingest the placenta. The specialist dehydrates the afterbirth, grinds it into a powder, and encapsulates it into pills. Women sometimes take home the dehydrated placenta to eat like jerky or freeze it and blend pieces into morning smoothies.

There is no conclusive research showing that it’s beneficial for humans to eat the placenta, but I’ve come across a bit of anecdotal evidence. Women say they get a rush from eating placenta, similar to the one you get when you drink green juice. Some say it’s helped them fight off postpartum depression and replenish their energy after giving birth.

Probably the best argument I’ve seen for placentophagia is in the book Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal, who talks about how eating her placenta helped her feel more energized after giving birth:

“Some may claim that what I experienced was the placebo affect, to which I counter ‘Who cares!? It worked and it was awesome!’”

I’d love to hear from the moms out there who have tried this! Did you feel like it made a difference for you, post-partum? If you’re pregnant now or planning to have a baby, is your placenta going to be on the menu?

Sources:

Related:
I’m Going to Eat My Placenta
Is It Safe to Have a Vegan Pregnancy?

Read more: Babies, Family, Health, Obstetrics, Pregnancy, Spirit, Women's Health, , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

134 comments

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6:47PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

I want to hurl just thinking about it, but if anyone else wants to eat their own placenta, GO FOR IT!

4:30PM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

I've had 2 children and I've never even thought about eating my placenta. Actually nobody ever brought the idea up so it truly did not enter my mind. And if it WAS brought up there is NO WAY I could slurp up the "healthy" stuff. Now MAYBE if it were in pill form I could THINK about trying it, but NOT WET!!!

11:24PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Ah, interesting. :)

12:07AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Jennifer W., please back that up. I've had horses for far longer than 40 years, was an active breeder where horses foaled "hopefully" in a stall, but not always. I've never, EVER seen a horse try to eat the placenta. In the wild, horses will sometimes try to hide it or bury it so the smell won't attract predators, but there has not been, to my knowledge, any case of a horse ever eating it! If you've ever seen an equine placenta, you'd never make such a comment. It's thick, rubbery and horses simply don't have the mouth structure to do that. I doubt cows do, either.

2:30PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Not necessarily true, cows and horses are herbivores and both will eat their placentas after birth.

2:29PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Not true, cow and horses are herbivores and they both will try and eat their placentas after they give birth.

3:47AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Christopher, herbivores don't eat the placenta when they give birth. They either try to bury it or move to another spot and therefore eliminate the scent of themselves from predators. Many species do that instinctively, even if they are not wild. For example, I've had horses for over 40 years and for a decade, bred my mares. If outside in the pasture, by the time I found the mare and foal, the placenta was either buried or in a completely different area. After my barn was built and the mares foaled inside stalls, I was always present and could remove the placenta upon it being expelled. The one time I wasn't, I found it buried in the corner of the stall, under a foot of soiled straw and waste (the stall had been cleaned and fresh straw laid when I went to bed for the night).

4:30PM PST on Nov 29, 2012

It seems to look like turkey

I have heard of placenta stew.... I have also heard that when meat is scarce, the human placenta gets eaten, too.

Why would an herbivore eat a placenta? I know cats and dogs eat the placenta, cats because they don't want to leave a scent behind for predators to home in on.

9:46AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

I'm open-minded but I don't think I could get over the ick factor here. I haven't had children yet, but if I decided to do this it would have to be in capsule form.

3:26PM PDT on Nov 1, 2012

No way for me. But hey, if you want to thats your choice.

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people are talking

I have always loved peas especially. This reminds me why I need to eat more of them1

Ros shouldn't that be vvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmm........

Sometimes Human's Suck!! Horrendous and heartless!

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