Eat your placenta and show just how gullible you are

When it comes to nonsense, it’s tough to beat homebirth advocates. They fabricate transgressive practices, label them “natural”, pretend that indigenous cultures around the world have practiced them, make up all sorts of faux benefits, and even invent “scientific” explanations which are nothing more than figments of their own, uneducated imaginations.

I’ve written about waterbirth in the past. In contrast to the claims of its advocates, waterbirth is not natural (no primates give birth in water), has not been practiced by indigenous cultures around the world (not surprisingly, since it’s not natural), provides poor pain relief, and can lead to drowning and death of the baby. Explanations of why waterbirth is supposedly safe are nothing more than mumbo-jumbo that demonstrate a profound ignorance of human physiology.

For wackiness, though, it’s tough to beat placentophagia. That’s the scientific term for eating the placenta. Yup, eating the bloody, rubbery placenta. You can eat it raw, and some proponents insist that this provides the most “benefits.” But for those who are more fastidious, you can dry it and put it in capsules to eat later.

Why would you do that? Because you are gullible, of course.

Placenta Benefits.info provides supplies and services to help you prepare your baby’s placenta. (Wacky childbirth practices almost always cost money and are a source of income for childbirth “professionals.”) What are these purported benefits that Placenta Benefits is extolling?

Why should I take placenta capsules?
Your baby’s placenta, contained in capsule form, is believed to:

*contain your own natural hormones
*be perfectly made for you
*balance your system
*replenish depleted iron
*give you more energy
*lessen bleeding postnatally
*been shown to increase milk production
*help you have a happier postpartum period
*hasten return of uterus to pre-pregnancy state
*be helpful during menopause

Now that you’ve read the fantasy, let’s look at the reality.

Is eating the placenta natural?

Sure … if you are a rat, and maybe even if you are a lemur. But how about if you are higher order primate, or a human being? Eating the placenta is variable among higher order primates, and virtually never occurs among humans.

Indeed, the anthropological literature dates the first sighting to an indigenous group of California homebirth advocates (I kid you not). In Consuming the inedible: neglected dimensions of food choice, MacClancy and colleagues report:

… In association with the natural childbirh movement from the 1960’s placentophagia was taken up in some ‘Western’ societies, especially in California, on the basis that it was ‘natural’, as ‘all’ mammalian species eat the placenta. The problem with this is that not all mammals are regularly placentophagous and our closest primate relatives also are not placentophagous… [M]odern placentophagia is based on an inaccurate idea of making the human birthing process more ‘natural’.

In other words, eating the human placenta is not natural and it is an affectation dreamed up by California hippies.

Can eating the placenta replenish depleted iron and give you more energy?

In the world of cooking, the placenta would be considered an “organ meat” and could theoretically improve iron levels. In fact, it may do so in species that are regularly placentophagous. Of course, eating any part of any human being could probably do the same. And though it is theoretically possible, there are no studies that have shown that it occurs.

Can the placenta decrease postpartum bleeding?

In other words, does the placenta contain utero-tonic substances like oxytocin? There’s no reason to believe it does and considerable reason to believe it does not.

The purpose of the placenta is to interface with the mother’s circulation and thereby transfer oxygen and nutrients. Contractions of the uterus interfere with that function (when the uterus contracts, exchange cannot take place) and may cause the placenta to shear away from the wall of the uterus (an abruption). There is precisely ZERO reason to believe that eating the placenta will prevent postpartum bleeding. In fact, Placenta Benefits.info, which has a full page of bibliography salad masquerading as supporting research, can’t manage to find even a single paper on the purported utero-tonic effects of placenta.

Can eating the placenta increase milk production?

In other words, is the placenta a galactagogue? I could find only two papers on the subject. One was published in the BMJ … in 1917. The other, quoted by Placenta Benefits.info is Placenta as Lactagagon published in 1954 by Soykova-Pachnerova in the journal Gynaecologia. The study is poorly done and has never been replicated.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence that eating the placenta increases milk production.

Can eating the placenta prevent postpartum depression?

No. According to Pec Indman, a psychotherapist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders:

Although there has not been one study (not even poorly done) about the effects in humans on placental ingestion, the claims are that it prevents the blues and PPD …which contributes the spread of misinformation about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. There is no evidence that the freeze drying processing of placental tissues maintains the integrity of the hormones, protein, and iron. There is no evidence about any part of this process to warrant a recommendation.

Indman’s comment about the integrity of placental components highlights another important issue. There is no evidence that the placenta contains hormones that are biologically active in increasing milk supply, decreasing postpartum bleeding or improving postpartum mood. But even if the placenta did contain such hormones, you’d still have to show that they survived biologically intact, did not get destroyed by the acid in the stomach, existed in a form that could be absorbed in the intestine, and are absorbed in a form that could be utilized by human cells.

When it comes to placentophagia, homebirth advocates are batting zero, as usual. Eating the placenta is NOT a natural process for humans. Indigenous peoples around the world did NOT eat the placenta. There is NO evidence that eating the placenta improves iron stores. There is NO evidence that eating the placenta prevents postpartum bleeding. There is NO evidence that eating the placenta improves milk supply. And there is NO evidence that eating the placenta prevents or treats postpartum depression.

There is one thing that eating the placenta reliably does, though. It does highlight the fact that homebirth advocates are gullible and woefully uneducated about human childbirth.

  • jake

    Eating your placenta in an attempt to make up for lost iron sounds like a great way to increase the iron content of your stool. It’s amazing that these home birth naturopath morons don’t realize your body has a limited iron absorbing capacity, and that too much iron would wreak havoc on your body.

  • yugaya

    re: Robin Lim – this part of her bio sounds familiarly sketchy: “In the span of a year, I lost my best friend and one of the midwives
    who delivered my child,” said Lim, who has eight children. “My sister
    also died as a complication of her third pregnancy, and so did her baby.”

    She moved out of USA following these deaths. Any way to check her record while she was in USA?

  • Ben

    Eating placenta? I’m not sure, either way.

    But, neither should anyone be if no conclusive studies have been done.

    If there were conclusive studies, Amy would have referred to them above, but she didn’t. The hippies did mention some studies, and I think Amy dealt effectively with the 1917 article: “One was published in the BMJ … in 1917.”

    In 1917, enough said, right? So Amy obviously gives no credit to any medical research done in any field prior to 1917, because, it’s SO old.

    Hmmm

    Amy is on shaky ground. She says (quoted from below) “YOU must show that eating placenta has benefits. I don’t have to prove
    that it doesn’t. I noticed that you offered NOTHING, no scientific
    evidence of any kind, to support your position.

    Oh, the irony!”

    The irony indeed. For anyone to make a statement about how the world is, we usually ask for evidence. Let me give an analogy:

    The hippies say Jane loves cake. Amy says Jane HATES cake. So we want to be sure we get it right, we ask “Have either of you met Jane? Why do you think she loves/hates cake?”

    The hippies say they heard it through the grapevine, but haven’t met Jane.
    Well I haven’t met Jane either, Amy says, but I don’t have to prove she hates cake, the hippies have to prove she loves it.
    Why would we believe either of them when they make their claim?

    We wouldn’t.

    Some of you might think that because Amy wears a white coat and has lots of letters after her name, she must be right, no questions asked.

    Some of you might think that because she is a Dr, she is ‘The Man’ and so must be trying to manipulate and exploit you, so she must be wrong.

    The whole point of science is to remove the human element, and look at facts and outcomes. Amy failed to do that in the above article. In fact she started attacking home-birth advocates as well, showing she has a dislike for alternative practices, whether they have been proven effective or not.

    What is worrying about some comments below is when people say “If it WAS true, they would have discovered it by now.” Sheesh…

    We must already know everything to know about everything then, right? Scientific enquiry can just stop.

    Unless of course you believe that science is constantly evolving. This evolution only happens when we actually do research, ie lots of studies over thousands of people who did and didn’t eat placentas… THEN we can start to draft up a theory. NEVER can we say “X is 100% true”. Look up Bertrand Russell’s Turkey story, sums it up well.

    Sorry for the long post by the way…

    • Who?

      If someone asserts what they describe as a fact, why would they not want to show evidence for that assertion. Particularly if they want to encourage others to change their behaviour in response.

      Re Jane and the cake, who cares? It only affects Jane, and whoever supplies her with cake. And in your example there is no suggestion that Jane’s cake eating habits should guide anyone else.

      And curiously, the suggestion is not to eat fresh placenta but to consume tablets the proponents claim contain placenta and which they assert that they believe-not that they know-will assist with the various issues they list. Even if they had established, rather than asserted, that eating placenta was useful, they would still need to show the tablets provide the same benefits.

    • Azuran

      Your cake analogy is absolutely ridiculous.
      Beside, Amy is not saying that Jane hates cake. She is saying that she has no evidence that Jane loves cake, therefore, she won’t give Jane cake.
      In science, It is up to the person who makes the claim to provide at least a some evidence supporting their claims. You don’t get to spout out unproven nonsense and say that it’s up to other people to prove you wrong.

  • Johnny Boldt

    I noticed a few articles cited at http://www.placentawise.com/research-studies-supporting-placenta-encapsulation/ were not mentioned (in particular, the 1918 ones). Any thoughts on these?

  • Ben

    So, in conclusion: number of studies backing up hippie arguments: 0
    Number of studies backing up author claims: 0

    Lack of rational inquiry on both fronts.

  • Nise

    Have also read of eating a piece of the placenta being used successfully to stop haemorrhage in Indonesia – lots o malnourished patients. Not all home birth advocates are hippies… Have you watched a water birth or home birth? Guess not 😀

    • yugaya

      “Have also read of eating a piece of the placenta being used successfully to stop haemorrhage in Indonesia”

      Cultural appropriating bigots are the worst. Half of maternal deaths in Indonesia are due to postpartum hemorrhage: http://www.aogm.org.mo/assets/Uploads/aogm/PPH-Files/PPH-Chap-53.pdf

      Maternal mortality rate in Indonesia in 2013: 190 dead women per 100 000 births.

      Maternal mortality rate in USA in 2013: 28 dead women per 100 000 births.

      And according to you, all these women in Indonesia are dying simply because they are stupid and failed to “educate” themselves like you did by watching some youtube videos, you privileged idiot.

      • Nise

        No, I didn’t watch youtube videos. I read a book from a midwife in Indonesia saving lives when Pitocin doesn’t work by offering a piece of placenta with honey when her patients are haemorrhaging.
        You have a lot of ego and prejudice…

        • yugaya

          ” a midwife in Indonesia saving lives when Pitocin doesn’t work by offering a piece of placenta ”

          All you have is a deadly lie being perpetuated out of deliberate ignorance.

          Maternal mortality rate in Indonesia in 2013: 190 dead women per 100 000 births.

          • Nise

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Lim

            Other people believe and award her work.
            Mortality rate in her birth center is not the same as the country.
            Prejudice, prejudice!
            I wouldn’t encapsulate my placenta. But if I was bleeding and no medicine was working, I would eat any piece of placenta they offered me.

          • yugaya

            She wasn’t awarded anything for offering women at risk of bleeding to death placenta because eating placenta does not prevent or stop PPH – which is evident in the rate and number of women in Indonesia dying from PPH when they have no access to pitocin and/or other real medical interventions.

            The prejudiced bigotry in your lie is that if what you are claiming were true, and if eating placenta stopped PPH, then all the women who die from it are – unlike you – just too dumb to try to save themselves so easily. No pitocin needed!

          • Nise

            She is claiming it, not me.
            She uses it as last resort, as she does have access to Pitocin and medication in her birth center.
            She also claims that warming up the placenta with the cord still attached will help resuscitate babies, once again last resort in an emergency situation.

          • Nise

            People are not dumb, no one will offer placenta elsewhere. It is not gonna work according to you, so why try?

          • yugaya

            “no one will offer placenta elsewhere” Thank God.

            I wonder to how many women and babies this idiot has denied or delayed medical treatment and in how many cases that delay contributed to the death.

          • Nise

            She is not idiot. You are because you can’t read two words “last resort”.

          • yugaya

            Yeah I read those two words. They mean ” delays further lifesaving medical interventions in order to try if deadly bullshit will work”.

          • Nise

            No, it means, try pitocin, fundal massage, etc before going for the yummy placenta piece. She is a midwife, she will not put her patients at risk, her objective is to reduce mortality rates. She is just not so close minded that she won’t try something just because it looks disgusting to some. Definitely you need some new vocabulary in your life. Everything is stupid, dumb, insane, idiot and bullshit… Keep your life in your tiny box of limitations.

          • yugaya

            “try pitocin, fundal massage,”
            And then NOT offer placenta ( if you do, you are delaying proper treatment): http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/75411/1/9789241548502_eng.pdf

            Basic newborn resuscitation guidelines: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/75157/1/9789241503693_eng.pdf?ua=1 – if at any opoint you are wasting time to warm up the placenta on top of it against medical advice being still attached to the baby you are doing it wrong.

            If she is doing what you say she is doing she IS actively putting lives at risk.

          • Nise

            Why do you assume you can’t follow WHO guidelines while swallowing a piece of placenta? Or do standard resuscitation guidelines while keeping the placenta in a warm water bowl or bag? How long do you think it takes to cut and swallow a piece of placenta? What about assistants at birth?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwvRUrn0p90

          • Nise

            Limited mindset. I am not saying she does it, on the video she says it herself. And surprise, baby started breathing, and didn’t die!

          • yugaya

            Limited mindset? Oh please.

            Your “hero” claims in her book that leaving umbilical cord attached for 24 hrs prevents mental disorders.

            FFS, that is the level of insane we are talking about here.

          • Nise

            After many many years of instantaneous cord clamping, many studies show the benefits of delayed cord clamping. And many doctors still don’t delay it. Let’s at least study her claims instead of judge it as insane from the start.

          • Nise

            CNN’s hero 😉

          • yugaya

            Yeah. That award ( CNN aside) is such a recommendation: http://tribune.com.pk/story/714842/scandal-hit-cambodian-sex-activist-resigns/

          • yugaya

            “After many many years of instantaneous cord clamping, many studies show the benefits of delayed cord clamping.”

            No they don’t. They show reasonable benefits to prematurely born babies. They show no substantial benefits for term babis. They also show increased risk of jaundice in term infants.

            No study on the planet shows what she claims – that leaving umbilical cord and placenta attached to the baby for 24 prevents mental disorders.

          • Nise

            You have to update yourself on the studies then.
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1564438/

          • Nise
          • Nise
          • Nise
          • yugaya

            What a gish gallop of idiocy. Hopefully someone else will tackle all of your bs.

          • Nise

            Even WHO says it is beneficial.

          • yugaya

            Yeah, WHO recommends not clamping sooner than 1 minute. NOT LEAVING IT ATTACHED TO THE BABY FOR 24 HRS.

            The logical fallacy you just used is appeal to authority.

          • Nise

            “They show no substantial benefits for term babies.”
            So why even do it for a minute?

          • yugaya

            For potential benefits. That’s why.

          • Nise

            There are no studies of the use of a placenta piece for PPH, because of people like you. What about the potential benefits? Oh well, let’s just leave her to die, as eating a piece of the placenta is insane. Great logic!

          • yugaya

            “There are no studies of the use of placenta piece for PPH, because of people like you.”

            I stole this from a therapist explaining unethical fallacies of his profession, but it fits perfectly:

            “Our coercive, intolerant society that tyrannizes us with “political correctness,” dumbs us down, and controls us like children. Imagine, e.g., we are arrested for speeding while drunk, and the person whose car we hit presses vengeful charges against us.. We show ourselves as the real victim by pointing out that some politically-correct, self-serving tyrants have hijacked the legal system and unfairly demonized drunk driving. These powerful people of bad character and evil motivation refuse to acknowledge that most speeding while drunk is not only harmless — actuarial studies show that only a small percentage of the instances of drunk speeding actually result in harm to people or property — but also sometimes unavoidable, profoundly ethical, and a social good, getting drivers to their destinations faster and in better spirits. We stress that any studies seeming to show drunk speeding is harmful are not just unscientific (e.g., none randomly assigns drivers
            to drunk speeding and non-drunk speeding conditions) but hopelessly biased (e.g., focusing on measures of harm but failing to include measures sensitive to the numerous benefits of drunk speeding).”

          • Melissaxxxx

            No, it’s because there is no plausible mechanism for eating placenta to impact at ALL on PPH, so ethical people focus LIMITED and SCARCE Research resources on investigating treatments for PPH that might, actually, you know…. WORK.

            If you believe it so much, sell your belongings and privately fund a study. Don’t expect medical researchers to bear the burden of nonsense claims. EG: if Wakefield had never been such a disgraceful dishonest jerk, imagine what could have been done with all the $$$ wasted debunking vax=autism claims to ACTUALLY STUDY AUTISM TREATMENTS?!?!

            And no. The answer isn’t “leave her to die” the answer is continue to resuscitate the mother. With shit that works.

          • Nise
          • yugaya

            “The paper concludes that in healthy term babies the evidence supports
            deferred clamping as this appears to improve iron stores in infancy.”

            That’s it. Notice the wording “appears to”. No harm. Could be beneficial. In any case, beter than immediate. So thus it is recommended.

            None of this in any way justifies or validates the batshit insane practices of your “hero”.

          • Nise

            “No they don’t. They show reasonable benefits to prematurely born babies. They show no substantial benefits for term babis.”

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            From the article linked: ” However, currently, evidence is insufficient to confirm or refute the
            potential for benefits from delayed umbilical cord clamping in term
            infants, especially in settings with rich resources.”

            Again, there is evidence to support delayed cord clamping (where delayed means 30-60 seconds, not 24 hours) but not in term infants. No one is disputing the potential utility in premature infants.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            This study was specifically in very preterm infants. As yugaya said earlier, there do seem to be some benefits for preterm infants.

          • yugaya

            “on the video”

            So it is wisdom-from-watching- youtube-videos after all.

          • Nise

            No, I read it from the book. Found the video specially for you!

          • Nise

            The recommendation is in your link as well, on page 7 🙂

          • yugaya

            You are hallucinating now. Please feel free to quote where eating placenta is recommended as treatment for PPH by WHO, or warming up still attached placenta as a form of basic newborn resuscitation.

          • yugaya

            ” if a baby is born appearing lifeless, the placenta can be warmed to restore life in the child. The practice of warming an attached (unclamped and uncut) placenta in hot water or by massage is thought to restore the jeeva, or life force, that is stored in the placenta. Babies should remain attached to the placenta as long as possible to allow the life force to flow into the newborn.”

            Yeah I doubt you’ll be linking to any credible sources corroborating any of this nonsense any time soon.

          • Daleth

            Hold on, people. Lim is not delaying medical interventions; she’s working in a context where medical interventions are not available. Her patients are too poor to afford them, Indonesian hospitals will not release babies to their parents until the hospital bill is paid, and some of Lim’s work is also done in disaster zones where there is no medical care available for any price.

          • yugaya

            She has capability to transfer for PPH. She has capability to resuscitate newborn according to guidelines and transfer to hospital for more. She is deliberately choosing not to in the cases which are described. And I wouldn’t give the benefit of the doubt to a CPM practicing in a place where both culturally and resource-wise she is secure from prosecution and free to experiment all she wants. Yes, she has managed to get huge following and funding and do some great things locally. But women in developing world deserve more than to being subjected to her lunacy. There are plenty of credible on the ground relief and medical help agencies that help without breaking the boundaries of ethical care.

          • Daleth

            She has the capability to transfer her patients to hospitals that will take away their babies and not give them back. I completely agree that women in Indonesia deserve better care than she provides. However, when the other option is to have your baby taken away and not given back. what the hell kind of option is that? Some mothers might honestly prefer to die and let their family raise the kid than to live and lose the child forever.

            What’s wrong in Indonesia isn’t that Lim is practicing. What’s wrong is that hospitals can and do take babies as collateral for unpaid hospital bills.

          • yugaya

            Daleth I’m not finding any credible source on that that does not link back to – Robin Lim.

          • Daleth

            That’s good to know, though 10 minutes on Google doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And I doubt anyone here knows what the situation for debtors is like in Indonesia; remember debtors’ prisons here and in the UK? Makes me wonder what happens to parents who make $8/day and owe the hospital $1000. Let’s say they do get their children back–whew! Now what? Does dad go to prison, making mom so poverty-stricken she’s forced into prostitution or has to put her kids in an orphanage? That used to happen to poor families here in the US. Poverty forced many, many people to put their kids in orphanages, and it still motivates some young women to put their children up for adoption.

          • yugaya

            I’ve checked human rights reports with specifics on women and childbirth. If there was any credibility to that claim and/or if it happened any more than anecdotally it would be in there.
            http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/AmnestyInternational_for_PSWG_en_Indonesia.pdf

            http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CRC/Shared%20Documents/IDN/INT_CRC_ICO_IDN_15721_E.pdf

            Literally any and all mentions of that are from the “hero” midwife as primary source.

          • yugaya

            “She also claims that warming up the placenta with the cord still attached will help resuscitate babies.”

            Holy crap that woman is insane, stupid and a danger. And there I was thinking that Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize was the low.

          • yugaya
          • PrimaryCareDoc

            I wonder if this is the birthing center where Maura wanted her breech baby to be born. (See blog post from last week).

          • yugaya

            Could be.

          • Daleth

            Lim is doing great work, but the reasons she has won awards is not because her methods are in any way equal or superior to methods used in modern medicine. She has won awards because she’s providing semidecent medical care to women who otherwise would not get any medical care at all. She’s working with women who CANNOT go to the hospital because, as the link you posted notes:

            “Babies are often held by hospitals in Indonesia, until payment is made for birthing services. Parents sometimes in desperation relinquish their rights and place their babies up for adoption. Lim’s Yayasan Bumi Sehat birthing sanctuaries offer free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to anyone who needs it inIndonesia, where the average family earns the equivalent of $8 a day, and a normal hospital delivery without complications costs around $150. A Caesarean section can cost more than $1,000. Indonesia’s high maternal and infant mortality rates are caused in part by these costs, which many women cannot meet.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Lim

          • yugaya

            “She has won awards because she’s providing semidecent medical care to women who otherwise would not get any medical care at all”

            Bingo.

        • Azuran

          I love how you think ‘book from a midwife in indonesia’ is somehow better than ‘youtube video’

  • Nise

    “This mom’s uterus wouldn’t maintain its firmness after delivery no matter what was done. We resorted to the old trick of icing down small pieces of the placenta and giving them to her! The reasoning behind this “trick” is that the hormones from the placenta will be absorbed into the maternal bloodstream. Placing a small piece between the cheek and gumline causes the hormones to be transferred sublingually into the mother. This facilitates clamping of the uterus and helps staunch blood flow. Icing and rinsing the piece down is for the comfort of the mom and to remove the extra blood from the piece. (Animals eat their placentas after giving birth for this same reason; by disposing of as much afterbirth material as possible, they also help prevent predators from coming after them and their young.)” http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/hemorrhage.asp

  • scmak

    It was delicious. But clean away the curdled blood / blood clots.

  • Maggie Howell

    I think I love you, Dr. Amy! My girls are 25 and 26, both born in a hospital (one emergent C and one planned C), all vaccinated and nursed for about a year. In short, I have a normal, sciency brain. My daughter with Asperger’s (runs in the family) is a biochemist and the neurotypical one is a cosmetologist; both wanted to hurl after reading about placentophagia. We all grew up with dogs and horses; the mama dogs would eat placenta (sometimes), but the horses (vegans!) never did. OMG.

  • Andrea

    I’m hardly gullible or stupid. I’m generally pretty skeptical and believe most naturopathic stuff is bunk. I plan to have an induced, hospital delivery. I shave my legs and drive a suv and would never touch a soy latte or make my own baby food. I’m normal, college educated, and a conservative. I’m gonna try placenta encapsulation this time around. Why? Because I had severe ppd. I know that hell. I’ll try ANYTHING to avoid or reduce it this time. If you told me to eat live slugs and monkeys eyeballs, I’d do it. I also plan to start Zoloft at 34 weeks. But anecdotal or not, after my last experience postpartum, I’ll give it a go. It might not help, but it can’t hurt either and I’d rather try and maybe see some benefit than not and reap none.

    I’m not dumb, thanks. I am desperate but not a moron.

  • MrWhiskers

    You are a sour-puss aren’t you Amy? (author of the article). All the proponents of eating the placenta that I’ve heard from or read about have been up front about the fact that the practice is not evidence-based at this point. The fact is there haven’t been any real studies of it yet. So for all of your assertions that there is “NO evidence” that consuming the placenta has any benefits, isn’t it also true that there is NO evidence that it does not? Sour-puss.

    • Young CC Prof

      Ah, but most of the supposed benefits do not make biological sense. The hormones that you supposedly get from it aren’t absorbed orally, for example.

    • Jenna Healy

      Thaaaat’s kind of the point of being a skeptic? Some people have a crazy notion that they’ll believe stuff when it’s proven true, not that they’ll believe it as long as it’s not proven false. If you were to go around trying everything (and paying money for everything) because there’s no evidence the claims AREN’T true, you wouldn’t have much time or money left on your hands. And a lot of natural medicine and natural parenting makes money off unsubstantiated claims; that’s pretty unethical as far as I’m concerned.

    • Maggie Howell

      Well, she’s a board-certified sourpuss (sic); are you?

  • fedupofthecrap

    My friend warned me against using these so called ‘encapsulation specialists’, as apparently one local to us in Auckland, that has just started advertising, does some of the processes in her home kitchen!! She only had to follow a quick on-line course to make her a “specialist”. Scary really, my good friend also said that when it was done in her home the utensils were just wiped round and put back into the box ready for the next placenta.There doesn’t seem to be any regulations or checks on these people who are earning a lot of money for not lot of work and absolutely no facts to back it up.

    • Daleth

      the utensils were just wiped round and put back into the box ready for the next placenta.

      Oh my god, that’s so disgusting.

  • Barbara

    It is laughable that one of the arguments the pro-placentaphagia community uses to defend the lack of evidence of its benefits is that the only people doing research are drug companies and since there’s nothing in it for them there is no research or proof. OMG, think of all the “unused” placentas there are out there. If any respectable scientist and or drug company thought that taking placentas and turning them into drugs to combat PPD and other maladies had even a prayer of working, THEY WOULD DO IT!

  • chi

    HAHAHA …. how many placentas…… hahahahha

  • Amber

    They are also releasing a drug by the name of Placentex. While it is no secret that better testing should be done on drugs in general, and that most of the tests that are done are substantially “preliminary”, there is not much point in testing chemicals that have been proven and are generally considered to be valueless and ineffective in treatment of any disease or disorder whatsoever. Either there is possible value or there is not. If there is no possible value and placenta is no more than a bloody lump of leftover tissue, a purposeless and potentially harmfull waste product, why are they testing it for medical possibilities? And why are these tests coming up positive, even if it is “in vitro”? Of course the testing “in vitro” does not necessarily discount the results either. Many fine treatments and cures were origionally discovered in human cells “in vitro”. You may try checking cancer research.
    The point is, if it hasn’t been proven to be useless, then no one know’s that it is. If tests show possible treatments, then until they are disproved, the option stays open. You don’t run around insulting people as quacks and crazies unless you have a good reason. It’s disrespectful.

    • CSM

      Who’s releasing the drug? Is it FDA approved?

    • Box of Salt

      Just curious in case you come back, Amber – what kind of school are you in? Are you in high school? College?

      Your comments suggest that you do not know much about how new drugs are researched, nor anything about the FDA approval process for new drugs in the USA.

    • A quick Google search found the term “Placentex” being used as a brand name for a number of health and beauty products with unsubstantiated claims. A search of the NIH clinical trials database (http://clinicaltrials.gov) found a single trial for “Placentex”, and in that case the actual drug being tested was polydeoxyribonucleotide. In contrast, a google search for the newly FDA-approved diabetes drug Invokana immediately revealed its generic name (canagliflozin), and a search of the same clinical trials database for “canagliflozin” found 55 clinical trials of it. Amber, I am skeptical of your claim that “they” are releasing a drug by the name of Placentex anytime soon.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Even if there was something in the placenta that could be purified out and used as a drug treatment that would not lend any credence whatsoever to eating placentas. There is a very good reason to call placenta eating people quacks and crazies, it is disgusting and ritualistic.

      • CSM

        Especially if its a 43 week old placenta. You know, marinated in meconium and literally falling apart. With crunchy calcified infarcts! Mmmmm.

        • Nise

          The placenta is “alive” not falling apart just because 40+ weeks have passed… it is an organ… Chicken’s hearts are delicious!

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            How would you know about the biology of the placenta? Are you a pathologist?

  • Amber

    But thank you for contributing the counter point for a paper I am writing in school titled “Willing Ignorance”.

  • Amber
    • Box of Salt

      Amber, are you even reading the abstracts you’re posting? This one’s in vitro.

      “In vitro” literally means “in glass” – the scientific term for preliminary experiments done on cells which are not in living creatures (those are described as in vivo) – cells kept alive and growing outside of a body. Nowadays, a lot of the glass has been replaced by plastic containers, but the term is still used.

      In review, Amber: these are preliminary experiments.

      • Amber

        It was also done in rats in this expirament. And yes, it is preliminary. You must do preliminary tests to prove that there is a reason for doing experiments, and that the treatment isn’t likely to be horribly dangerous, before they will allow you to do human testing. Before the people, there were rats.

        • Box of Salt

          If we’re at the testing in rat stage of investigation, how could there be hundreds of doctors using the treatment, as you claimed two hours ago?

    • Roadstergal

      You know the difference between giving an intra-articular injection in a induced rat model of arthritis and putting it in a woman’s mouth to prevent hemorrhage, yes?

      I mean, the bioavailability, to start?? The equivalent to this would be injecting extract of placenta directly into a woman’s uterus. And looking for a very different effect from inhibition of metalloproteinase activity (what was measured in the rat).

      And in the end, the effect of placenta extract on various disease scores and MMP activity was less than a standard NSAID (diclofenac). It’s not surprising that nothing has happened with this data since 2010.

  • Amber
  • Amber

    If it is a load of bogus, why are hundreds of doctors using Human Placenta Extract for wound treatment and prevention of Arthritis?

    http://journals.lww.com/annalsplasticsurgery/Abstract/2010/07000/The_Effect_of_Human_Placenta_Extract_in_a_Wound.22.aspx

    • Box of Salt

      According to your linked abstract (and I’m not going to pay to read the whole thing), that’s five doctors using it on 10 mice. Oh, and only 4 of the 5 docs are MDs. This isn’t exactly standard of care.

      • Amber

        Standard of Care is an ethics regulation regarding doctors’ treatment of human beings; not mice.

        • Box of Salt

          Actually, there are ethical guidelines for the treatment of research mice.

          What I meant is an experimental treatment under investigation in mouse models isn’t ready for use as part of the “standard of care” for human patients.

          And in general, the “standard of care” is treatments that we know work – not experimental ones.

          All any of your links show is that there are some folks are doing preliminary experiments.

  • Dr Sarah

    This is of course anecdotal so take it with as much salt as you like (yeesh, come to think of it I could have picked a better metaphor in view of the topic of this post…) but the subject of placenta-eating and milk production came up on a lactation consultant discussion list I used to read, when one of the LCs posted her concerns that she had seen a bit of a trend of women being *unable* to establish a proper milk supply after eating their encapuslated placenta. She was wondering whether this was just a coincidence, or cause and effect. I recall one or two others posted with similar impressions, saying they’d seen this happen often enough to have some concerns about it, and someone pointed out that, since eating encapsulated placenta for weeks after birth involved consuming the lactation-suppression hormones that the placenta contains in high levels, surely it was theoretically possible that taking encapsulated placenta over time might suppress milk production?

    As I say, that’s hardly firm scientific evidence. However, there seemed to be enough of a trend of experienced LCs noticing this problem (and this was on a very pro-crunchy list, as you can imagine), that I would certainly want to raise it as a possible concern with any woman wanting both to breastfeed and to encapsulate her placenta.

  • Chris

    I also think it’s hilarious the amount of incredibly uneducated b.s is posted on the right hand side.. Scary home-births… Scary because YOU lose money? lol Anyone with HALF a brain can look up how much SAFER homebirths are than at a hospital where you are at more than double the risk for infection of Mom’s, babies and are more than tripple the risk of unnecessary medical intervention.. And the whole 1 out of 3 babies b.s… More babies die BECAUSE of unnecessary medical intervention than any other ‘risk’ factor! You are all afraid to lose your kick-backs and bonus’ because you scare women into believing birth is an illness and should be treated in the hospital! Birth is the most natural thing in the history of the world, women should never be threatened or scared into something based on bias opinions and an ulterior motive!

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Yeah, I agree that women should not be threatened or scared into something based on bias opinions and ulterior motives. That is why homebirth is so insidious. They lie to you just like this post is lying about the risks and then threaten and scare women into having dangerous homebirths because they want to make money off of them.

  • Chris

    I find it ironic a Dr would argue something health related without giving ANY evidence to back up claims, whatsoever..But more importantly, or ironic, is to use the argument that because a study was never replicated, it must be a fluke or false study.. I find it ironic because most, if not ALL, pharmaceuticals on the market do ‘studies’ but only do so to create what they WANT as a result. They could fail 1,000 times, but all they need is success ONCE in what it’s claim is, and it all of a sudden is proven and approved for the market.

    Dr seem to think because they went to school for years, they are always right because they have more ‘power’ backing them… How many times in history has a Dr. been catastrophically wrong in the past? Dr’s are wrong more than they are right… ANY drug that has ever been recalled was first approved by the FDA and pushed by Dr’s… Funny how you “Drs” fight for ‘what’s right’ but the second something backfires, it’s all a shock and you blame everyone but yourselves.

  • I just saw an ad online for a special pot to put your placenta into and Grow a magical tree…..