The newest health craze sweeping the internet has nothing to do with fitness routines, sleeping habits, or the best kitchen gadget for juicing. Surprisingly enough, the newest wellness trend is to consume your own placenta after giving birth, also known as placentophagy–or placenta encapsulation if you have your placenta turned into dietary supplements. This practice used to exist on the fringe of homeopathic practitioners, but with celebrities like January Jones and Kourtney Kardashian endorsing the practice, it’s safe to assume that placenta is the newest superfood on the market, right?
The primary purpose of the placenta is to supply the baby with adequate nutrients, behaving like a kidney to filter the baby’s bloodstream of harmful substances, while also letting good substances and nutrients for the baby pass through.
On June 30, 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about mothers consuming their own placentas after birth. The CDC states, “Placenta ingestion has recently been promoted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking.” The most disturbing part of their report is that, “No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption.” The CDC is essentially saying that there are no proven benefits, and there are no standard regulations in place for the safe processing of placenta for consumption.
However, the CDC’s recommendation is not why I have already decided not consume my placenta when I have children.
The CDC’s statement actually came from a September 2016 case in Portland, Oregon. In this case, a woman repeatedly infected her baby with Group B Streptococcus because the infectious bacteria still existed inside of her dehydrated, encapsulated placenta, of which the mother was ingesting two capsules three times a day. The CDC suspects the company used to create this woman’s capsules did not heat them long enough, allowing the bacteria to survive the process.
About a year ago—after switching birth control prescriptions—I got an aggressive yeast infection. Since it was my first one, I went to the OB/GYN to figure out what the heck was going on. After a series of tests, I was told that I had a yeast infection, a urinary tract infection, and that I tested positive for Group B Streptococcus or GBS. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, stunned. I had a million questions circulating my mind, specifically, “What is happening to me?”
According to the American Pregnancy Association, Group B Streptococcus or GBS is a type of bacteria normally found in the vagina and/or rectum of about 25% of all healthy, adult women. Women who test positive for GBS are said to be colonized. In adults, the most common complication of GBS is the urinary tract infection. However, GBS is easily transferable to infants during the birthing process and is the most common cause of sepsis (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining surrounding the brain) in newborns.
Suddenly the case in Portland, Oregon hit a lot closer to home. While the purported benefits of consuming one’s placenta seem almost magical, for me, it is not worth the risk.
Anyone considering consuming their placenta should study the process of placenta encapsulation and talk to their doctor about potential associated risks, according to Dr. Genevieve Buser, lead author of the CDC case report. Open and honest conversations are the best way to know what is best for your body and lifestyle.
Until there is scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of placentophagy and a regulated process for placenta encapsulation exists, I’ll be sticking to a plant-based diet to restore my post-baby body and mind.
What are your thoughts on consuming your placenta after birth?
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Photo: January Jones via Instagram, Pexels