Any woman who has ever spent ten minutes in an OB’s waiting room flipping through free pregnancy magazines is likely familiar with the trend of ingesting placenta. Usually dried and turned into pill form, advocates of “placental consumption” have long argued that eating the placenta helps women make a speedier postpartum recovery, reducing postpartum depression and providing valuable nutrients depleted during birth. If other mammals eat their placentas—the line of thinking goes—then it must also be good for humans.
The evidence for these claims? Turns out that they’re pretty thin. The Washington Post reports that a new study published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health shows that all of the available literature on placental consumption “is all bunk.”
Via the Washington Post:
“Of all the studies available, only one showed potential for benefit,” Clark said. “and it showed the potential for pain reduction immediately after labor. But that particular study, although quite rigorous and convincing, suggested that the placenta had to be eaten right after birth, completely, in its entirety, and that it couldn’t be stored or heated,” she said. “That’s not what human women are doing.”
To be clear, Clark doesn’t recommend that new mothers eat raw placenta (dear god, please don’t let eating raw placenta become a trend). Placentas are full of a variety of bacteria which, recent studies suggest, are central to the development of a baby’s microbiome. Just because they’re “natural,” doesn’t mean that they’re good for you.
Clark and her team are working on further research: “If this continues to be a practice for women,” she told the Post, “I’d hope that we could start to say what might actually be beneficial about it, and what might be harmful.” She also called for more evidence-based research on the subject something that, frankly, the entire trend of “natural” methods of childbirth and recovery are in dire need of.
Image of cool placenta pills via Getty.