Your Placenta: To Eat or Not to Eat

Since I have approximately 100 friends having babies right now…ok, maybe not 100….I have officially turned into a maternity and pediatric doctor without asking for it.  Thanks guys.  One question that has come up that I didn’t necessarily have a good answer for is whether or not I thought it was a good idea to encapsulate your placenta and consume it.

The first question I always ask myself when I am not sure if something is appropriate for health is: “Did/do healthy populations do this?”  I have lived in other countries, done health work in other populations, and read extensively on hunter gather populations, and while some have rituals around what to do with the placenta, NONE OF THEM consume it (that I could find).  Other mammals consume their placenta after birth and there’s a lot of speculation and anecdotal evidence that doing so may help reestablish hormonal balance in women postpartum, but the science isn’t there.  I searched journals, asked some of the best ancestral medical professionals around, and contacted holistic women and children doctors.  No one could find legitimate research on the topic.

So, the science isn’t there, but does that mean you shouldn’t eat your placenta?  Not necessarily.  One good point that was brought up was whether or not you were administered drugs during the birth process.  Since the placenta acts as a nutrient transfer organ, there could be some real contraindications in consuming something that may have lots of residual chemicals present.  However, if you gave a natural birth without medication, you may be ingesting something full of nutrients.  As with any organ, there tends to be more fat soluble vitamins present in addition to mineral content.  Consuming any organ meats after birth could probably be a really good idea to restore some of these essentials, which play a role in energy, mood, thyroid function, adrenal health, and overall good physiology.  However, you may not be sh*t outta luck if you had an epidural or forgot to plan encapsulation.  If most of the benefit is potentially coming from the nutritional qualities of  the placenta as an organ, then it may be just as helpful to consume organs from grassfed cows such as liver.  If you don’t like liver, you can get similar nutrients from Cod Liver Oil.  I like the brand Green Pastures, and there is a link to their product in my amazon store across the task bar above.

Conclusively, things are inconclusive.  Did you like that statement?  I thought I was pretty clever.  But in all seriousness, I searched high and low for the research, I asked prominent professionals, I deferred to the actions of health populations, and there just isn’t a lot out there.  Therefore, I am left to assume that most of the benefits American women speak of is partly due to the nutrients they are gaining from consuming the placenta that could also be found in beef liver or cod liver oil.  Particularly, fat soluble vitamins like A, D, and K.  I’m not often left without an opinion, but my opinion here is very unsubstantiated.  If it’s a natural birth, you’re probably not going to hurt anything, so why not.  If it wasn’t a natural birth, then you may want to think about cod liver supplementation to aid your hormone levels after birth, especially since it’s a healthy practice for anyone to make sure they are getting these nutrients in their diet.

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