Health

What is the purpose of eating the placenta after giving birth?

While some tremble with disgust at the very idea, others swear by eating the placenta in a wide variety of forms, a subject on which opinions differ greatly. STYLEBOOK asked the gynecologist and placenta researcher Dr. Alex Farr of the University Clinic of Gynecology of the Medical University of Vienna.

What is placentophagy?

The placenta, the tissue that supplies oxygen and nutrition to the fetus through the umbilical cord, reaches a diameter of between 15 and 20 centimeters during pregnancy and weighs up to 600 grams. If new mothers do not just dispose of the placenta after giving birth, but save it for later consumption, it is called placentophagy.

Scientific drawing of a placenta. The placenta can be up to 20 centimeters in diameterPhoto: Getty Images

Why do women eat the placenta?

Proponents promise better milk flow, faster regression, less pain, and the prevention of the baby blues, known medically as postnatal or postpartum depression, from placentophagy. Consuming the placenta is simply a natural process: animals would also eat the placenta to reabsorb the nutrients it contains.

In placentophagy, the placenta is pressed into capsules, made into homeopathic blood cells or powder, or processed with the help of various recipes. Those interested can prepare the raw, roasted, cooked or dehydrated placenta; there are various instructions on the Internet. Some women even have whole placenta feasts – with their own placenta.

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How healthy is it to eat the placenta?

But does it really make sense to eat the placenta? Dr Alex Farr has done research on the subject and has a clear position: no. “Because placentophagy is potentially harmful and has no proven benefits, doctors should advise against it,” writes the gynecologist in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In an interview with STYLEBOOK, the expert explains: “There is evidence that bacterial infections can be transmitted by eating the placenta. It also seems theoretically possible that viral diseases can be transmitted in this way. So far, however, we have almost none. reliable data on none of these “.

In addition, there is concern that heavy metals and toxins may be transferred back to the newborn through the mother’s milk. These build up in the placenta during pregnancy. There was a case in the United States where a child narrowly escaped death from blood poisoning, Farr said. This could be due to an eaten placenta.

However, says Farr, surveys of women taking placental capsules during childbirth showed that mothers experienced “overall health improvements, less pain, more energy and improvements in breastfeeding.” However, the doctor is of the opinion that this is likely primarily a placebo effect. However, the women interviewed were supporters of placentophagy.

“A waste product from a medical point of view”

The federal agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning against placental ingestion in 2017 because infectious pathogens would not be properly eliminated during encapsulation. Farr goes even further in a report from the Medical University of Vienna. Not only is there no scientific evidence of the clinical benefit of placentophagy, “from a medical point of view, the placenta is a waste product.” And: “Since the placenta is genetically part of the newborn, eating the placenta borders on cannibalism.”

placental capsules
In China, the placenta was once mistaken as a remedy for impotence and infertility, but the cosmetic industry has since relied on its purported rejuvenating effects, but nothing has actually been scientifically proven. Photo: Getty Images

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What does the placenta taste like?

In the interview, the gynecologist explains that the placenta on the maternal side has a rough texture, “rather like a dense and firm sponge”, on the side facing the baby it is covered with the membrane of the egg and vessels and umbilical cord can be seen, which flows from it, cf. However, he can’t tell what the placenta tastes like: “I’ve never eaten it and I’m not going to. But I suppose it tastes more like liver or black pudding, although reportedly not very good. “

Ultimately, of course, it is up to each woman to decide how to deal with her placenta. Either way, planting is a nice alternative to eating – if you have a garden, you can bury the placenta in the ground and plant a tree on it.

Those

Farr, A. et al. (2017): Human Placentophagy: A Review
Medical University of Vienna (2017): Dangerous Trend: The placenta is not suitable as a superfood
With the expert advice of Prof. Dr. Alex Farr, gynecologist and placenta researcher

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