Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Placentophagy Pills: Mmm, Mmm Good
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.
- Ingesting the placenta: Is it healthy for new moms?
- Some say cooking afterbirth or encapsulating it in pills averts baby blues
Bonus video of a placenta chef:
Hey, so, what did you do with your placenta?