Placentophagy Pills: Mmm, Mmm Good

Photo of a do-it-yourself placenta encapsulation kit.

Placenta encapsulation! When I stumbled upon a page selling these do-it-yourself kits, I strained to discern if it was something similar to a baby time capsule. You know, preserve your placenta as a cherished family keepsake.

Sadly, no. The truth is stranger. Some mothers cook and eat their placentas in tasty pill form.

Dry and grind it into powder and swallow it in vegetarian capsules. Yeah, I guess eating meat from your own body is okay for vegetarians.

Not only are placenta pills a discrete method of eating a bodily organ (I hope your own) in public, but it doesn’t spoil as quickly as the original raw blob. That’s right, spread your joyous placenta consumption over weeks or months.

The do-it-yourself kit retails for $75. If this is too gross for you, the company’s website will connect you with an encapsulation specialist to make the pills for you.

This whole thing is called placentophagy. Most mammals eat their placenta. Some researchers think it’s to hide traces of childbirth from predators or as a pain reliever due to a particular molecule found in placentas. Both ideas have their doubters. The most obvious reason is nourishment.

Well-fed humans, on the other hand, are just plain wacky. Because the placenta has estrogen and progesterone, some mothers think eating it will help stave off depression.

Except, there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea, nor data on what happens to those chemicals during cooking or encapsulation. [If I'm wrong, please direct me toward such a study.]

My wife’s (admittedly just nurse-level knowledge) take is that if you were already depressed during your pregnancy, the level of hormones in the placenta will not be enough to help you.

But if moms want a placebo, this seems to be a pretty safe one if you can afford it.

My wife has seen placenta eaten raw once, sucked actually, at the behest of a midwife because the mother was bleeding heavily after birth. The placenta contains oxytocin, a chemical that helps contract the uterus and in effect reduce blood loss.

Is there science behind that move, enough oxytocin to make a difference? Or is this practice given an air of authority because midwives have been doing it for ages? Who knows.

But if you’re looking for a recipe, she says more often friends of the mother spirit the placenta away and bring it back cooked with onions and rice. Use a recipe for liver. Mmm.

The funny thing (to me) is, the following two news articles are linked on the front page of the encapsulation company’s website. When I read them I see reasons not to eat a placenta. I’m sure true believers see the opposite.

Bonus video of a placenta chef:

Hey, so, what did you do with your placenta?

Comments

18 Responses to “Placentophagy Pills: Mmm, Mmm Good”

  1. Lil' Sugarplum says:

    Interesting article!

    Both placentas are still in the freezer. We had planned to plant a tree with them for each child.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 10:00 am

  2. Sara says:

    Eeeewwww. age old tradition, health benefits, or whatever else one may call it would not be enough to eat my own placenta. I don’t think I even saw mine, with either kid. And I was totally fine with that.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 2:24 pm

  3. anjii says:

    I wanted to do this so badly, but both of my kids were preemies, unexpectedly, and we had no time to prepare for or deal with extra stuff like this. I got to see my placenta with my first, but I was too concerned with waiting to find out if he was okay to remember that I wanted to keep it.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 3:14 pm

  4. leslie says:

    I told my doctor that I wanted to look at my firstborn’s placenta because I was curious about what they really looked like in person.

    I poked at it and held up the membrane and marveled at how thin it looked but how strong it felt. I totally recommend playing with your placentas, ladies.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 3:53 pm

  5. Angelique says:

    No desire, whatsoever, to eat my kids’ placentae. Seeing said placantae only increased my inclination.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 5:15 pm

  6. Sandy W says:

    I’m stunned and slightly grossed out by the video. I had no idea that something like this ever occured (in the human species). Wow!

    July 22nd, 2009 at 5:18 pm

  7. Dianna says:

    Interestingly, my sister just emailed me an article by Joel Stein (http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1908194,00.html) regarding this very trend (I’d never heard of it previous to that).

    Sooo not my thing, but hey – you want to eat your own organs? Go for it! LOL

    July 22nd, 2009 at 6:20 pm

  8. Lucy says:

    Even though the video freaked me out, I like the idea of making a heart shaped umbilical cord. And by saying that, I think I might have freaked others out.

    July 22nd, 2009 at 8:49 pm

  9. ithacana says:

    Donated mine to the local university for biomed research.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 8:28 am

  10. Cathryn says:

    Why so judgmental, people?

    Regardless of personal preferences about placenta consumption, I would encourage new moms to at least take a peek at it. It’s quite an amazing organ that your body manufactured to sustain your baby for nine months.

    It never makes sense to sterilize, medicalize, and ignore your body during the birth process. It’s much healthier to be educated about what your body is actually able to do during pregnancy and labor.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 9:36 am

  11. Pippin says:

    To each his own.

    I did not eat my placenta. I don’t eat placenta, liver, or green peas. I’m not fond of beets either.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 10:41 am

  12. MIdge says:

    We looked at the placentas after both births (One hospital birth, one home birth.) and saved them (in the freezer). They went in the ground when we planted a tree a week after each birth to commemorate the new life. It’s cool to watch the trees grow!

    July 23rd, 2009 at 1:19 pm

  13. Tracy says:

    Call me narrow minded, but I will just stick with the hospital food. I have seen a placenta (my own) and I felt no desire to serve it with fava beans and a nice chianti.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 3:07 pm

  14. kym says:

    I wanted to eat it but…apparently I hadn’t evolved spiritually as much as I had hoped. As my formerly medically inclined but now horrified son said, looking at it in the bowl, “Its enough to put you off of becoming a doctor.” It put me off eating it for sure.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  15. Amber says:

    vo-mit.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 7:58 pm

  16. F. says:

    After watching the video and seeing the final results, I was not as grossed out.

    The dried out umbilical cord was actually kind of sweet.

    July 24th, 2009 at 9:20 am

  17. Miss X says:

    If I could afford for someone to come to my house, cook it up, dry it out & grind it into pills, I’d do this.

    I didn’t find the placenta any grosser to look at than any other raw meat.

    July 24th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

  18. Rosana says:

    I have a nine month son, which I had naturally at my home with a midwife, which the birth of my son went perfect. I wanted to do everything natural, and I did. But I never knew or heard of eating the placenta, I found out about that a few months after him being born. Anyway….. I’m about five months pregnant, and still breastfeeding my babyboy (I plan on tandem nursing). which of course in doing so I will need much nutrition to keep everyone healthly and sane…. especially right after the birth of my second baby. I am so excited…. I got a recipe to make my own pills, I’m just hoping I will be “woman” enough to make the pills myself, or even enough time to do it, two babies….. is not going to be very easy, I’m sure…… Thank you for having this video!!!!

    December 21st, 2009 at 2:43 am

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