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There’s a growing trend in northern Europe, Australia and the US for women to have their placenta (sometimes known as the “afterbirth”) converted into capsules following birth. The capsules are then consumed in the following weeks, but is there any real benefit to this practice? The jury’s out – but possibly not much.
Many new mothers justify the act of consuming their placenta, known as placentophagy, by pointing to the animal kingdom, where it is common for mammals to consume their own placenta shortly after the birth of their offspring.
Believing that it is high in nutrients and contains the right hormones that could prevent postpartum depression (“baby blues”), some women are turning to specialist companies to convert their placenta into capsules.
To date, there has been little scientific research to study the real benefits of this. That is, until now! The University of Nevada in Las Vegas, US, published a small study of 27 women, of whom 12 consumed a placenta capsule and 15 a placebo (a capsule with inert properties) in the weeks following birth.
The women who took the placenta capsules did show a small rise in their hormone levels and some small improvements in post partum fatigue and energy compared to the women who did not, but there was no difference in terms of likelihood to develop post natal depression nor were the hormone levels between both sets of women of any clinical significance.
However, this may pave the way for further research, because there were some interesting findings that could be worth trying to replicate.
So I’m sure some will continue this practice in the belief that it’s good for the mother, and possibly good for the breast-feeding baby too. But whether the expense of this practice justifies the small benefit it might have is, of course, up to the individual parent.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com