The practice of eating placenta (known as placentrophagy) has gained popularity among a number of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian-West, her sister Kourtney, as well as January Jones and Mowry Twins Tia and Tamera. Yet despite claims that eating your own afterbirth not only boosts production of breast milk, and “level” off hormones that can contribute to postpartum depression and insomnia, most medical experts maintain that doing so offers “no real benefits,” and can actually do more harm to both moms and their newborns.
In fact, Dr. Amos Grünebaum, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, flat out told women not to do it in his report published online in August in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Grünebaum and his co-authors also likened those touting the ingestion of placenta to “snake oil salesmen” out to make a profit from gullible people and mentioned that cost for encapsulated placenta can run between $200-$400.
The trend has also been condemned by Dr. Alex Farr, gynecologist, of Austria’s Vienna University, who told the Sun that “there was no proof it had healthy nutrients, but tests showed high levels of potentially harmful chemicals” In addition, risks run high for bacterial and viral infections even when the placenta has been freeze-dried and taken in pill form, as well as grilled. These infections can be passed on while nursing.
In fact, the CDC issued a report in June noted that there aren’t any federal standards for processing placentas for human consumption in the United States, and cited a case in which an infant became seriously ill from drinking its mother’s contaminated breast milk after an investigation suggested that the placenta used in capsules taken by the mother hadn’t been heated at a high enough temperature for long enough.
According to the CDC, it would be necessary to “cook” the placenta for at least “130º Fahrenheit for slightly more than 2 hours to destroy basic viruses or bacteria, hormones and remove any toxic heavy metals that may accumulate in the organ, while even higher temperatures would be needed to kill viruses such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDs and, Zika,” that the mother might have been exposed to during pregnancy.
In the meantime, plenty of other women have been known to eat the tissue raw, increasing the chance for contamination. Because of the dangers, many hospitals both here and abroad forbid parents from taking the placenta home, let alone eating it there. Those considering the practice should always consult with their doctors before doing so.