Breaking News
February 23, 2018 - Tobacco Kills, No Matter How It’s Smoked: Study
February 23, 2018 - Q&A: Avindra Nath, MD | Medpage Today
February 23, 2018 - Adherence to sleep apnea treatment affects risk of hospital readmission
February 23, 2018 - Zika virus could be alternative for treatment of aggressive brain cancer
February 23, 2018 - Carbon monoxide enhances efficacy of antibiotic against stomach infection
February 23, 2018 - MSD and Ferring Pharmaceuticals Complete Largest Ever Clinical Trial in Postpartum Haemorrhage
February 23, 2018 - Postnova AF2000 system offers reliable characterization of trace metal colloid distribution in the environment
February 23, 2018 - Pioneering study may pave way for effective painkillers to treat neuropathic pain
February 23, 2018 - Research opens up new avenue to minimize risks of transplants
February 22, 2018 - Cabozantinib Active in Advanced Thyroid Cancer
February 22, 2018 - Polluted air may pollute our morality
February 22, 2018 - New data from VOYAGE 2 trial shows promising results for Janssen’s guselkumab treatment
February 22, 2018 - Bank loans signed in the hospital leave patients vulnerable
February 22, 2018 - Researchers identify new nanostructure inside sperm tails
February 22, 2018 - Catheter-based procedure increases treatment options for mitral valve disease
February 22, 2018 - Sage Therapeutics Receives FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for SAGE-217 for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder
February 22, 2018 - Larger Endocarditis Vegetations More Likely to Embolize, Kill
February 22, 2018 - Parenting behavior in adoptive families
February 22, 2018 - Researchers discover new weakness in sleeping sickness parasites
February 22, 2018 - Research project aims to find new ways to identify and treat most aggressive brain cancers
February 22, 2018 - Researchers explore how people with Alzheimer’s disease use end-of-life medical services
February 22, 2018 - Stroke survivors and carers feel marginalized due to lack of support from primary care
February 22, 2018 - Neuroscientists discover novel mechanism of action behind schizophrenia
February 22, 2018 - After shooting, ‘honor how kids want to deal with their feelings’
February 22, 2018 - U.S., EU and Japan Health Authorities Accept Regulatory Submissions For Review Of Pfizer’s Third-generation ALK Inhibitor Lorlatinib
February 22, 2018 - At-Home Genetic Test Might Change Medicine
February 22, 2018 - Many second hand plastic toys could pose a risk to children’s health, study suggests
February 22, 2018 - Study shows that two different brain systems cooperate during learning
February 22, 2018 - Liquefied brain tissue after stroke may harm surviving brain, UA study finds
February 22, 2018 - New intervention improves communication behaviors in couples affected by dementia
February 22, 2018 - Clinical trial shows safety of promising TSRI stroke drug
February 22, 2018 - Researchers discover new interaction mechanism of unstructured proteins
February 22, 2018 - A Patient’s Journey: Can I Kill the Glucose Monster?
February 22, 2018 - The Problem That Piles Up
February 22, 2018 - Kids can roll up their sleeves—again—for mumps protection
February 22, 2018 - Scientists find significant amounts of toxic metals in e-cigarette vapors
February 22, 2018 - 3D Signatures reports positive results of new Telo-HL test for Hodgkin’s lymphoma
February 22, 2018 - Scientists reveal development of improved medicine to fight addiction
February 22, 2018 - USC-led researchers release dataset of brain scans from stroke patients
February 22, 2018 - Antibiotic-producing bacterium releases more metabolites than assumed
February 22, 2018 - Flu Season Shows First Signs of Slowing
February 22, 2018 - Nonstick Chemicals May Disrupt Metabolic Function in Women
February 22, 2018 - Calcium may play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease
February 22, 2018 - Scientists visualize insulin receptor activation for the first time
February 22, 2018 - UC San Diego Health now offers new treatment option for people with refractory epilepsy
February 22, 2018 - First African child vaccinated with new typhoid conjugate vaccine
February 22, 2018 - BetterYou named as ‘Most Innovative Brand’ at FGB Awards 2018
February 22, 2018 - Assaults Among Young People Fall to Lowest Rate in 15 Years
February 22, 2018 - What do you know about Parkinson’s disease?
February 22, 2018 - Researchers discover five new genetic changes that may increase pancreatic cancer risk
February 22, 2018 - Gout medication may help improve heart function in adult patients
February 22, 2018 - Bioactive compound limits collateral damage in the kidneys after heart attack
February 22, 2018 - Study reveals HCT as effective treatment for NHL patients regardless of age
February 22, 2018 - Father’s age can affect offspring lifespan, mice study shows
February 22, 2018 - Opiant Pharmaceuticals Announces Publication of New Pre-Clinical Data Supporting Potential of OPNT005 as a Heroin Vaccine
February 22, 2018 - Make the Diagnosis: Strange Rash Surfaces
February 22, 2018 - Isolated sulfite oxidase deficiency – Genetics Home Reference
February 22, 2018 - Scientists identify weight loss ripple effect
February 22, 2018 - Smoking at record lows in New York
February 22, 2018 - Scientists pinpoint fertility hormone that could support early pregnancy
February 22, 2018 - Aggressive cancer stem cells can now be isolated successfully in a scientific breakthrough
February 22, 2018 - Researchers find high risk of suicide among unaccompanied refugee minors
February 22, 2018 - Protein levels linked to posture and gait problems in Parkinson’s
February 22, 2018 - Biomedical engineers create 3D hydrogel scaffolds  to transform cells into muscle
February 22, 2018 - Study employs novel approach to uncover new biomarker for CHD
February 22, 2018 - Study finds strong connection between midwifery and birth outcomes
February 22, 2018 - Verastem Submits NDA to FDA for Duvelisib for the Treatment of Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma and Follicular Lymphoma
February 22, 2018 - Low BP Associated With Risk in HFpEF
February 22, 2018 - More U.S. women obese before pregnancy, experts sound the alarm
February 22, 2018 - Study aims to examine effects of PTSD symptoms in police officers
February 22, 2018 - Study reveals increased disease risk after early heart surgery
February 22, 2018 - Women with Type 1 diabetes come across unique challenges
February 22, 2018 - Researchers target abnormal epigenetic mechanisms involved in childhood cancers
February 22, 2018 - Wine polyphenols may be good for oral health
February 22, 2018 - Moderate and severe exacerbations associated with decline in physical activity of COPD patients
February 22, 2018 - FDA Approves Osmolex ER (amantadine) for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Drug-Induced Extrapyramidal Reactions
February 22, 2018 - Morning Break: NSCLC Approval; School Nurses; ‘Human-Sheep Hybrids’?
February 22, 2018 - Penn study sheds new light on immune cell identity
February 22, 2018 - From a novel support group to a book, learning from seven widowed fathers
February 22, 2018 - Researcher makes breakthrough discovery in process of fear relapse
No, you shouldn’t eat your placenta, here’s why

No, you shouldn’t eat your placenta, here’s why

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Humans and underwater animals are the only mammals that don’t eat their placentas. Credit: www.shutterstock.com

In almost all mammals, the placenta – the organ that develops in pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the baby and remove waste products – is eaten by the mother immediately after giving birth. Humans and aquatic mammals are the only exceptions.

But the number of women choosing to eat their placenta has increased over the past decade.

The most common way to consume the placenta is to have it made into capsules. To do this, the placenta is steamed, dried and then ground into a fine powder. The resulting capsules are taken several times a day during the postpartum period. One placenta usually yields around 100-200 capsules.

Is eating the placenta beneficial?

Proponents of the practice, which is known as placentophagy, claim it can boost milk supply, reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression, and replenish vital nutrients.

To date, there’s no evidence from human studies to support these claims. Most of the proposed benefits are based on anecdotal reports from women who have consumed their placentas, and from animal studies.

Nobody knows exactly why non-human mammals eat their placenta. A number of possible explanations have been proposed. According to some scientists, ingestion of the placenta is done to ensure predators are not alerted to the presence of a vulnerable newborn.

Others argue the placenta contains useful nutrients and hormones beneficial for a new mother. This idea is also favoured by advocates of human placentophagy.

Two hormones produced by the placenta – prostaglandin and oxytocin – have been identified as potential active ingredients in placental capsules. Prostaglandins cause contraction of the uterus, which is important for helping it to return to its pre-pregnancy size. Oxytocin is an essential hormone for promoting milk ejection during lactation.

Unfortunately, there have not been any studies to determine whether the concentrations of these hormones in placenta capsules are high enough to actually induce these beneficial physiological effects.

Many biologically active substances are thought to be lost during the encapsulation process. In one of the few published studies investigating the composition of placenta capsules, only three out of the 17 hormones measured in part of the study were present in high enough levels to be physiologically relevant. Notably, two of these hormones – oestradiol and progesterone – can actually supress milk production. Clearly, more studies are needed to substantiate claims placenta capsules provide hormonal benefits.

Studies from rats have shown ingestion of the placenta can enhance the effects of opiates naturally produced by the body, that are part of the pain-relief system activated during labour and birth.

The pain-relieving properties come from a unique substance produced by the placenta known as placental opiod-enhancing factor. Like rats, human placentas are also thought to contain the opioid-enhancing factor.

But it’s destroyed by exposure to temperatures above 40°C. Human placentas are usually heated to around 70 °C during the encapsulation process. So it’s very unlikely placenta capsules retain any pain-relieving properties.

Rats also ingest the entire placenta in one sitting immediately after giving birth. This is thought to be important for ensuring they consume enough of the opioid-enhancing factor to gain any benefits.

Some micronutrients, such as iron, are retained during encapsulation. But even though placenta capsules contain high levels of iron, a randomised controlled study found there was no difference in iron levels between women who consumed placenta capsules and those who received placebo.

Is eating the placenta safe?

The placenta may also be a source of potentially harmful substances.

During pregnancy, the placenta regulates the transfer of substances between mother and baby. As such, accumulation of potentially toxic substances can occur. To date, there have been only a few small studies examining the toxicity profile of placenta capsules.

Reassuringly, it’s likely the concentrations of toxins such as lead, mercury, and arsenic are well within safe limits. But data is currently available for only a small, select group of elements. There haven’t been any studies to measure the levels of organic pollutants or other potentially harmful substances that may be present in the placenta.

Another concern is that placenta capsules may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Earlier this year, an infant in the USA was diagnosed with the potentially fatal condition late-onset sepsis, caused by the bacteria group B Streptococcus agalactiae. Placenta capsules consumed by the infant’s mother tested positive for the bacteria, and were identified as a potential source of the infection.

Although reports of infection due to contaminated placental capsules are rare, these cases highlight a potential risk which women should be made aware of. More commonly, only mild side effects are reported such as headache, or an unpleasant taste to the capsules.

So given there is no evidence of benefit and some evidence of potential harms, health providers should counsel women in their care against consuming their placenta. At the very least, it’s essential all women considering placentophagy are provided with clear, evidence-based information so they can make an informed decision.


Explore further:
Oregon infant’s illness prompts warning about placenta pills

Provided by:
The Conversation

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles