Ingesting Placenta and Postpartum Mental Illness

Ingesting Placenta and Postpartum Mental Illness

Kristin Lasseter, MD

About Our Current Read posted an update late 2018 regarding the benefits of orally ingesting a placenta, also known as placentophagy. In this article, they summarize, with slight bias, a recent research study funded by Placenta Benefits Ltd.

What We Love About It

The website posted the links to both publications of the two phases of the trial. This allows viewers to read the evidence themselves - assuming they have access to Elsevier, which most people in the general public do not have unfortunately.

Take Away Point

Placenta Benefits puts a positive spin on recent research that they funded. The unbiased take away point (I’m receiving no benefits, monetarily or otherwise)  is that this research study showed no significant difference in a postpartum woman’s mood, bonding or fatigue if she took her processed, encapsulated placenta vs. if she did not. In other words, taking your own processed, encapsulated placenta after giving birth has no effect on your mood, your ability to bond with your baby, or the degree of fatigue you experience. It is important to note that this study also showed no negative consequences of taking a processed, encapsulated placenta. The main risk of ingesting placentas, and the reason it is discouraged by the CDC, is the risk of infection. Or worse, passing the infection onto your infant through breastmilk, and your infant becoming deathly ill. So it is important to be careful about ingesting your placenta. If you decide to participate in this practice, make sure the process you go with is safe and sterile.

(In the world of research, significant means “statistically significant.” Meaning that with some degree of certainty - usually 95% or greater - the result is real. This is important, because some data can be “significant” and some data can just show a trend. Additionally, this was a “small study,” meaning, it did not have a thousands of participants, which makes the results less likely to be accurate when applied to the general public).

Bottom line is, to date, research has not been able to prove there are benefits to consuming a placenta postpartum. When doing anything, especially when it involves your children and loved ones, it is important to look at non-biased benefits vs. non-biased risks. Ideally, you want the potential benefits to outweigh the potential risks. Since the practice of consuming placenta carries known risks with it, but research has been unable to show benefits of it, we currently recommend that women do not consume their placenta. Hopefully, there will be larger randomized, double-blind controlled trials (the gold standard of research) about placentophagy in the near future.