I keep hearing about celebrities who ate their placenta after giving birth. Really?!
Fans of this trend say that consuming the placenta in encapsulated pills or blended into smoothies during the weeks after giving birth can help boost a new mom’s energy level, encourage breast milk production, decrease bleeding, and, most notably, alleviate the “baby blues.”
The idea is that this organ, which develops during pregnancy to provide nourishment to the fetus through the umbilical cord, is chock-full of helpful hormones and other nutrients that drop in the days and weeks after giving birth. Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from women who have tried it (including famous moms like January Jones and Alicia Silverstone), there is very minimal scientific research to support any true health benefit.
Furthermore, many “placenta service providers” (who will prepare your placenta shortly after you give birth) use some type of steaming and dehydrating process to turn it into pills or powder, and this most likely destroys any possibly beneficial hormones. Also, because the placenta acts as a filter during pregnancy, removing waste and keeping bacteria or chemicals out and away from the baby, eating it could theoretically lead to an infection, especially if the placenta is mishandled or isn’t frozen or refrigerated within an hour or two after birth.
That said, serious adverse effects from placenta eating are probably unlikely. So while there’s no proof that it’s beneficial, it probably won’t cause any harm. For new moms who believe in the process going in, there may be a powerful placebo effect, which could explain why some women report feeling better.
Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.