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Placentophagy, also known as placentophagia, is a term that has originated from the union of the words "placenta" and the Greek terminology for "to eat". It refers to an act wherein mammals eat the placenta after childbirth. Read on to understand more about placentophagy.
What Is Placentophagy?
The placenta is associated with easing birth stress as it contains small amounts of oxytocin. It also helps in the contraction of the muscles surrounding the mammary cells in order to eject milk. Most of the placental mammals are known to participate in this act of eating the placenta after childbirth.
However, of late, human placentophagy has gained ample popularity and history has been studied to find its roots and the reason behind it. It is identified as the process of ingesting a human placenta postpartum by any person (either in the original raw form or in a cooked/dried form).
Although modern occurrences of this act are rare, there have been several historical occurrences reported of the same. It is believed that there are several health benefits linked to the consumption of the placenta.
Few have associated human placentophagy as a treatment for fatigue and postpartum depression. It also possesses ample nutritional value.
What Is Placenta And What Does It Do?
The placenta plays a crucial role in pregnancy. It is an organ that takes form and shape inside the uterus of a pregnant woman. Oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby are provided through the placenta. It also removes wastes from the baby's body. The placenta is attached to the wall of the uterus and the foetus's umbilical cord arises from this organ.
During a vaginal delivery, the placenta is delivered via the vagina, once your baby comes out. In case of C-section birth, the placenta is removed by your doctor after the baby has been taken out. All fragments of the placenta should be removed after childbirth to prevent infection and excessive bleeding.
Should You Eat Placenta? Does It Help?
Research shows that the placenta contains various nutrients. It is rich in fibre, protein and potassium. It is also loaded with hormones like testosterone and estradiol.
Several mothers who had consumed the placenta reported that they noticed improved postnatal health. Mothers believe that eating the placenta would improve lactation along with improved mood and better energy levels.
A research was conducted wherein several healthy, pregnant ladies voluntarily decided to consume their placenta post childbirth. Researchers met these women from the 36th week of their pregnancy up until the third week post delivery. During each meeting, saliva samples were collected for hormone analysis.
Although, it was earlier believed that consumption of one's placenta can boost energy levels and the overall mood, research data revealed that even after the consumption of the placenta pills, there was no such impact on the fatigue or postpartum depression levels.
The final words according to midwives on the consumption of the placenta are that it does not matter much as long as one consumes it safely.
How Do People Consume Placenta?
The placenta is mostly prepared for consumption by making it into a pill. There are plenty of companies who actually do it for you. Placental cuisine is slowly turning into a trend these days - encapsulation being one of them.
The other ways of eating the placenta are as follows:
• Eat it raw
• Make it into a smoothie
• Cook the placenta yourself
• Add it to your favourite dishes
Several cookbooks are available these days that guide you regarding the storage and preparation techniques for creating placenta-based meals.
Most of the recent intakes of the placenta by contemporary consumers are in the form of capsules. The placenta undergoes a steaming process followed by it being dehydrated and then placed in gelatin capsules.
Are There Any Negative Effects?
It needs to be understood that there are lots of differences between humans and other mammals. The reproductive physiology of other mammals is quite different from that of human beings. It needs to be understood that the placenta can be loaded with bacteria.
A report that came out in one of the issue's of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report had to say this about the consumption of the placenta post childbirth.
The placenta of a lady post delivery was handed over to a company to form pills using the dehydrated placenta. The lady consumed two of these capsules daily. After a few days, the baby began to show signs of breathing difficulties. When tested, the baby was found to have a group B Streptococcus agalactiae bacterial infection.
The mother's placenta pills were also found to have the same bacteria. It was finally concluded that the consumption of the pills increased this specific kind of bacteria in the mother who then had passed it on to the baby.
Other researchers have also not agreed to the belief of placenta consumption enhancing the mood or lactation. Apart from infection, indulging in the act of placentophagy could actually lead to blood clots due to oestrogen hormones and accumulation of toxins from the environment.
Moreover, companies who process the placenta for consumption might lack precautionary measures when it comes to preventing infections and contaminants.
We have heard about the ample benefits that placenta has for your growing baby in the uterus. However, post birth, if you do wish to attain the nutrients present in the placenta, you can choose to do so. However, it is advised that you understand the pros and cons of doing so before indulging in the act of placentophagy.