Several mammals eat their placenta after birth, however this behaviour is not prevalent among women living in industrialized countries. Maternal placentophagy is the postpartum consumption of the placenta by the mother and is received with great skepticism by more traditional medical experts.
There are numerous theories to explain why mothers consume the afterbirth. A modern twist on maternal placentophagy is that it reduces the likelihood and extent of postpartum depression. In addition, consumption of the placenta has been suggested to shorten post-bleeding time, restore lost hormones, nourish the blood, replenish depleted iron, reduce the overall recovery time from labour and birth, increase energy, boost immune function and enhance milk production. However, the previously mentioned benefits of maternal placentophagy have not been proven in scientific clinical trials.
In a recently published paper by Selander et al, a study surveyed 189 females who had ingested their placenta following birth. The majority of the women surveyed reported perceived positive benefits and shared that they would participate in placentophagy again after subsequent births. Like the women in the study by Selander et al, Debbie French tried placenta consumption after the birth of her fourth child. Debbie was dreading the birth of her fourth child because she was terrified of being visited again with the overwhelming despair that came over her after her last delivery. Debbie’s midwife suggested placentophagy to her as a means of alleviating postpartum depression. Debbie shares “Before I actually did it, my friends thought it was weird. But when they saw how fast I recovered from my birth and they knew my history, they thought it was pretty neat. Now I have a lot of friends planning to do placentophagy.”
There are a growing number of advocates for placentophagy because of the testimonials supporting its practice. Jodi Selander is an advocate of placentophagy and started researching the subject in 2005 during her second pregnancy. Having dealt with depression for many years, Jodi had many risk factors for developing postpartum depression. With a B.S. in Psychology, she understood the devastating effects depression could have on women and their families. As a natural health enthusiast, Jodie was looking for an alternative to pharmaceuticals that could help her avoid postpartum depression.
Although there are a
growing number of advocates and testimonials supporting placentophagy,
there is a lack of research on the subject. If placentophagy can help alleviate
postpartum depression for mothers it needs to be seriously investigated. In the
meantime, according to the testimonials perhaps it is something worth trying.
Selander, J., Cantor, A., Young, S., & Benyshek, D. (n.d). Human Maternal Placentophagy: A Survey of Self-Reported Motivations and Experiences Associated with Placenta Consumption. Ecology Of Food And Nutrition, 52(2), 93-115.
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