Yes, it’s safe to eat your placenta, despite recent articles published by some individuals in the medical community. Here I present studies that discredit the paper published by Dr. Farr and that show that placenta encapsulation, when done properly, is safe and has benefit to new mothers.
As a certified placenta encapsulation specialist, I’m happy about any coverage this misunderstood and often unheard of topic receives. I wish however, the articles or those writing about them in newspapers were a bit more balanced. These articles, specifically one published by Dr Farr of The University of Venezuela leans heavily on the criticism that there is only anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits of placenta ingestion my new moms to help them in their postpartum recovery. Dr. Farr’s publication.
I’m not sure if Dr. Farr chose to overlook studies published from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or if he didn’t’ know of their existence. The Placenatophagy Research Team at UNLV has been working tirelessly to provide us with empirical evidence that supports all of the anecdotal evidence and has these to offer.
First a study that analyzed placenta prepared for encapsulation and found it to have the hormones estrogen and progesterone at levels high enough to have a physiological effect. The research group took 28 placenta samples processed for encapsulation and evaluated them for hormone content. They found detectable lives of 16 of the 17 hormones they were looking for. UNLA study on hormones.
Young, S. M., Gryder, L. K., Zava, D., et al. (2016). Presence and concentration of 17 hormones in human placenta processed for encapsulation and consumption. Placenta 43: 86-9.
In a second study, the same research team did a double-blind, controlled research study that analyzed the dried placenta powder after preparation. It showed that heavy metals were not found in harmful amounts and that iron is present and available at 25% the daily recommended value. They fed one group of women dried placenta and the other dried beef placebo and measured their hemoglobin, ferritin, and transferrin levels before labour and postpartum. They found that iron levels were considerably higher in the group taking the placenta supplement compared to those taking the placebo. UNLA’s study on heavy metals and iron.
Gryder, L. K., Young, S. M., Zava, D., et al. (2017). Effects of human maternal placentophagy on maternal postpartum iron status: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled pilot study. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health 62:68-79
Iron is so important to postpartum recovery. You can read more about the links between postpartum depression and anemia here: Anemia and Postpartum Depression.
Dr. Farrs article also points to a single case study in which a batch of placenta capsules that were improperly prepared by an uncertified encapsulation specialist might have made a baby sick with Group B Strep. Article on Group B Strep.
I have 7 years of personal experience preparing placentas in a way that is safe, with nothing but positive feedback from my clients, the impact of this one case study is troubling.
In the statement released byThe Centre For Disease control it admits that transmission of Group B Strep could have occurred through contact with a colonized household member. CDC’s statement about Group B Strep.
Responding to an infant getting sick, possibly from the mother ingesting placenta capsules, with a warning to mothers is called for. However, I believe it would have been more accurate to urge pregnant woman to ensure their placenta will be handled and processed by someone who follows food handling guidelines rather than urging women to avoid placentophagy all together.
100% of my surveyed clients report positive benefits from taking placenta capsules and say they would do it again if they had another baby. 100% say they would recommend placenta capsules to a friend who is expecting.
I agree that more empirical data to back up all of the anecdotal evidence is sorely needed in this industry. As the practice of placenatophagy gains traction, and more and more women choose to do it, it would be fabulous to provide them with some cold hard facts about how and why placenta capsules have such a positive impact on postpartum recovery.
Here the research team in Nevada has provided us with evidence that placenta encapsulation is safe. I’m sure it won’t be long until they can gather more data on the how and why this fabulous organ is so beneficial to moms in their postpartum recovery.
The bottom line is, the majority of women report placenatophagy to have a positive effect on their postpartum experience. One case study, which points to, but can’t convincingly conclude, that illness was directly related to placenta capsules and a few papers published by the medical community shouldn’t discourage woman from eating their placenta’s. Instead, women should take this information as a cue to ensure they are hiring someone to understands the risks, and follows the guidelines set in place to mitigate those risks.
It is safe to eat your placenta if it is processed carefully, in accordance with the guidelines, by someone who is trained and certified in placenta encapsualtion.