Eating the placenta: stupid is as stupid does

expression -  Ignorance is bliss - written on a school blackboar

Homebirth and natural childbirth advocates can’t make up their mind about the placenta.

They all agree that human placenta has magical traits, but they can’t agree what those magical traits are:

It resuscitates the baby! Really? If the baby is born distressed because the placenta couldn’t provide enough oxygen inside the mother’s body, why would it suddenly provide adequate oxygen outside it?

You should leave the placenta attached to the baby! Really? Is there any animal that leaves the placenta attached to the baby? No, of course not.

You should detach the placenta so you can eat it! Really? Which ancient or indigenous cultures consumed the placenta? Oh, right, none.

It’s the baby’s spiritual twin! Really? Really??!!

Eating the placenta is stupid for a whole host of reasons, but the most important reason is this: the removal of the placenta, and the hormones that it produces, is the trigger for breastmilk production.

How does breastmilk production work? According to Physiology and Endocrine Changes Underlying Human Lactogenesis II:

The evidence is summarized that progesterone withdrawal at parturition provides the trigger for lactogenesis in the presence of high plasma concentrations of prolactin and adequate plasma concentrations of cortisol.

Breastmilk production is divided into two stages: preparation for production, which occurs during pregnancy, as is known as lactogenesis I; and actual production of breastmilk after the birth of the baby, known as lactogenesis II.

In pregnancy:

As the levels of progesterone, prolactin and placental lactogen rise, the terminal ductal lobular units [the part of the breast that makes the milk] undergo a remarkable expansion so that each lobule comes to resemble a large bunch of grapes. During mid-pregnancy, secretory differentiation begins with a rise in mRNA for many milk proteins and enzymes important to milk formation. Fat droplets begin to increase in size in the mammary cells, becoming a major cell component at the end of pregnancy. This switch to secretory differentiation is called stage I lactogenesis. The gland remains quiescent but poised to initiate copious milk secretion around parturition.

But it is birth, specifically the expulsion of the placenta, that triggers milk production:

This period of quiescence depends on the presence of high levels of circulating progesterone; when this hormone falls around the time of birth, stage II lactogenesis or the onset of copious milk secretion ensues…

How does it happen?

It has long been known that abrupt changes in the plasma concentrations of the hormones of pregnancy set lactogenesis in motion … It is clear that a developed mammary epithelium, the continuing presence of levels of prolactin near 200 ng/mL and a fall in progesterone are necessary for the onset of copious milk secretion after parturition. That the fall in progesterone is the lactogenic trigger is supported by evidence from many species… In humans removal of the placenta, the source of progesterone during pregnancy in this species, has long been known to be necessary for the initiation of milk secretion. Furthermore, retained placental fragments with the potential to secrete progesterone have been reported to delay lactogenesis in humans. Thus, without a fall in progesterone, lactogenesis does not occur.

It’s an elegant system. The progesterone synthesized by the placenta to support the pregnancy, inhibits the production of breastmilk. When the baby is born and the placenta is expelled, the level of progesterone drops dramatically and this is the chemical trigger for production of copious breastmilk. This drop in progesterone is so critical to breastmilk production that even small fragments of the placenta left behind in the uterus can interfere with lactogenesis.

That’s how “unhindered” breast milk production is supposed to work. Eating the placenta, therefore, is an intervention, an intervention that interferes with the exquisitely coordinated rise and fall of various hormones in the postpartum period.

Eating the placenta is an excellent example of the profound ignorance of human physiology that undergirds most of homebirth and natural childbirth advocacy. Advocates have no clue how the actual physiologic processes of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum work. They create a fantasy physiology where profound complications are “variations of normal,” where birth in water (unknown in any primate species) is natural, and where eating the placental hormones that suppress breastmilk production are supposed to promote breastmilk production.

Only someone profoundly ignorant of human physiology would recommend consuming placenta and only a gullible fool would actually do it.

126 Responses to “Eating the placenta: stupid is as stupid does”

  1. Melissa Wickersham
    November 3, 2016 at 5:48 am #

    The idea of eating a placenta is icky, gross and disgusting.

  2. kat
    February 8, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    So you title your article “stupid is as stupid does!”

    Now to talk about milk production, just to counteract your ridiculous article!

    After baby no 3 i had a big bleed….(all of mine born at home)
    Midwives were looking a little concerned, but fortunately i had heard about the use of the placenta to stop the bleeding, so thought we’d give it a go!
    Huband quickly whipped up a “delicious” placenta smoothie, containing freshly juiced pineapple, frozen berries and a 1 inch chunk of placenta smoothly blended into it.
    Despite my reservations at drinking it, and despite the distraction of blood streaming out of me ,i downed it, and lo and behold, within a couple of minutes, the flow had COMPLETELY STOPPED!
    I had two more of those smoothies over the next 24 hours, and the rest was dried and encapsulated and taken over time later.
    my first two babies i bled for at least 6 weeks each time before it went clear…., this time, the lochia had stopped within 3 days and was completely clear.
    I also had NO DELAY with my milk coming in…others wait days for it to come in, while the baby loses a bit of weight.
    My milk was in BIG TIME the very next day, and on day 3 the baby hadn’t lost 10% of his birth weight, but actually gained it!

    your article “stupid is as stupid does” is just a reflection on yourself, and not the MANY MANY women that have experienced major benefits from consuming the placenta and using it to stop PPH!

    If you don’t want to do it, then DON’T, but don’t rubbish others who make different choices from you, and especially benefit from them!

    It causes absolutely no harm, but has plenty of benefits..if you try it, but feel there was no particular benefit, it hasn’t harmed you and what have you lost?

    • February 8, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

      Repeat it with me, folks: correlation is not causation.

      That is all.

    • SecludedCompound
      June 16, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

      Your anecdotal evidence means exactly nothing.

  3. Hannah Goring
    January 20, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    The placenta also contains prostaglandins, as you know. What is more worrying about your blog is your intransigence and how dismissive you are. Maybe some women choose to have a midwife led labour, because they have had terrible experiences with obstetricians.

    • M
      June 11, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      So giving birth at home away from a surgan and medical staff if sh!t hits the fan sounds better? You do realize childbirth isnt a joke huge numbers of women used to die routinely giving birth to babies pre hospitals. And also the risk to the baby if something goes wrong dead baby! Thats it. I cant comprehend the logic of homebirths.

  4. annajrc
    November 29, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    Hm, this gives another meaning to eating out.

  5. Steph
    November 25, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Please excuse my ignorance, but I’m genuinely curious – when discussing postpartum contraception, I was advised to go with a progesterone-only method as it wouldn’t interfere with lactation. I decided to go with the implant, but it would be a couple of months before an appointment was available for fitting, so I was given a couple of strips of the POP to use in the meantime. I never used them as my C-Section left me not wanting sex for over a month, and then I thought I might as well just abstain for a couple of weeks till my implant-fitting appointment as the POP takes a week to work anyway, and I didn’t think it worth taking for the sake of a week’s protection. But I was advised to start taking them RIGHT AWAY if there was any chance at all that I would have sex before my implant would be fitted. So why would the progesterone from the contraception not have interfered with lactation if I’d stated taking it immediately postpartum if it’s the absence of progesterone from the placenta that enables lactation to begin?

    • annajrc
      November 29, 2014 at 6:30 am #

      Wow, I’m sorry about this.( Just as a curious fact to let you know, I had not wanted or had sex after my cesarean for 6 months!)

  6. BobTrent
    August 29, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    When we were preparing for our first homebirth, following my wife’s being frightened by her OB, we encountered placenta eating.
    My first response was, “Sounds cannibalistic to me! Don’t they know that up until the completion of birth, the placenta is part of the baby?”
    Our midwife was at that time a lay or direct entry midwife. She, a member of a SdA midwifery group, had backup from a midwifery-friendly OB.
    The births she attended for us were uneventful. She, like responsible midwives generally, did not take on clients who had preindications of complications.

    • fiftyfifty1
      August 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

      “She, like responsible midwives generally, did not take on clients who had preindications of complications.”

      Do you mean to say
      A) Reasonable midwives generally don’t take risky patients.
      B) Generally midwives are reasonable and thus don’t take risky patients?

      Because A may be true, but B sure ain’t, especially with our homebirth midwives here in the USA.

  7. Captain Obvious
    August 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Stealing placentas from the hospital

  8. Tabitha Ziegler Yaffe
    August 20, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Slightly OT, but not really.. This one wins for absurd birth story of the year, complete with the consumption of chopped raw placenta at the end. Read at your own risk!

    • Amy M
      August 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      Oh good lord. What an idiot, if she still feels weak and lightheaded days later, then certainly the chopped placenta is doing nothing.

      • Anj Fabian
        August 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

        No! It is working. It Is!

        Imagine how much worse off she would be if she hadn’t had her healing placenta elixir.

        ” The bleed had left me feeling really weak and dizzy and lightheaded, so
        I stayed in bed (and am actually still pretty much bed-bound).”

        Every time I read one of these stories with the obvious PPH and the woman flat on her back, barely able to stand up – I think of my c-sections and wonder how a VB that leaves you a near invalid is better.

        • Young CC Prof
          August 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

          PPH is 100% natural. Active management of the third stage of labor is unnatural.

          Nature sucks.

    • guest
      August 21, 2014 at 1:36 am #

      How gross! These people are freaks.. I bet her hemoglobin was in her boots.. I wonder if she had an abruption and that’s why her placenta “shot out”…

    • Schnitzelbank
      August 25, 2014 at 1:50 am #

      I’m a little miffed that I wasn’t offered bowls of chopped placenta at the hospital. All I got was a turkey sandwich.

    • Brix
      October 16, 2014 at 5:57 am #

      Two months late, but this lady is cray! I’ve never seen such self involved navel gazing in my entire life! Her husband’s name is Eros?! They think they’re gods?! My goodness. The obnoxiously pretentious depth of the woo on this post is just beyond. Yuck. Thanks for sharing that link. That woman is nuts.

  9. August 20, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Cannibalism is icky.

  10. Dr. W
    August 20, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Also, if you grind up the air filter in your car and sprinkle it over the engine, your car will be able to fly! The placenta is an important filter, and I think the immunology will be fascinating, but it is just a filter, getting blood form A to B.

  11. Stephanie
    August 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    OT: I have decided to train as a doula and am looking for some scientifically based pregnancy and childbirth information to contrast against the required readings for Dona certification. I would love to provide an alternative to the woo-filled industry. Can anyone give me some good starting points?

    • Still tired
      August 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Oh man, good luck. I decided to train as a midwife…

      I would recommend textbooks on basic life sciences. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, and pharmacology is a must. Combined with some skepticism and critical thinking.

      Warning: you will also need to work on a good poker face.

      • Stephanie
        August 19, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

        Thank you for the recommendation. Fortunately, I am well versed in poker face through my current career. I considered training as a midwife until I learned that I would have to attend out of hospital births as part of the curriculum where I live in Canada. From what I hear there are a number of moms who would like additional support but don’t want to feel pressured into refusing pain relief or going natural.

        • MaineJen
          August 20, 2014 at 12:36 am #

          Yes! You are the kind of doula we need. Sadly, you are all too rare…

        • Cobalt
          August 20, 2014 at 8:13 am #

          I had a doula for my second birth, she was amazing. She was able to answer a lot of my technical questions about the birth process and why the nurses were doing this and that, give honest advice while I was in labor about getting comfortable, positioning, and what was next. No mystical woo, just real information. She reduced a lot of my fear just by being able to explain what was happening.

          I ended up with an uncomplicated, unmedicated, hospital birth. The outcome owed mostly to biology and luck, but she really helped make the process easier and less scary. It’s so hard for lay people to get real childbirth education.

          • Stephanie
            August 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

            That is exactly the kind of doula I want to be! One that can explain the technical process, and what is going on while providing comfort measures.

          • Cody
            August 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

            We’re out there but many of us don’t work for profit.

        • Still tired
          August 20, 2014 at 10:59 am #

          Yes, you would have to attend home births as a midwife in Canada. Would you be morally opposed to provide doula services to home birthing moms? The reason I’m asking is because I find that these clients are more likely to turn to doulas for extra support. The way I’m keeping my own peace with it is this – most midwifery clients here want to have a hospital birth. There’s a small subset that will not go for a hospital birth no matter what you say to them. For these women, having a properly trained midwife at home is better than having a ‘friend’ or an attempt at a DIY birth. So, damage control. I always talk to my clients about risks and limitations but you can’t obviously drag them to the hospital if they don’t want to go.

          It would be nice to have more no-BS doulas around. The poker face is useful once you start working and get exposed to your local ‘birthing community’ 🙂

          • Stephanie
            August 20, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

            I have unfortunately had close experience with two homebirth disasters. In the first, the midwife and mom assured the dad that a labour obstructed for over 24 hours was fine. At hour 48, mom finally agreed to a C-Section when dad threatened divorce. The little boy now has moderate delays.
            In the second disaster, a midwife I know lost a baby due to an undiagnosed herpes infection. She was comforted by other midwives that “no one could have known that rash was herpes” and “some babies weren’t meant to live”.
            These midwives were both trained in the Canadian model. While I support a woman’s right to choose where to give birth, I don’t want to watch it happen and am glad to let others take that risk. It seems that most other Doulas in my area are very excited to work with homebirth and I plan on leaving it to them.

          • Still tired
            August 26, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

            Ugh. That’s terrible. Having more experience now with both home and hospital deliveries I believe that it’s not so much the place of birth as it is the provider. The obstructed labour and the herpes infection could have happened at the hospital just as easily…you know how we work – admit the woman, get her to the room, close the door. No one else interferes unless we think there is a problem and consult. If the midwife doesn’t see the problem or doesn’t want to see the problem, there is going to be harm done to the patient regardless of the place of birth. A homebirth is a complicating factor, for sure but I don’t think it is the primary reason for the bad outcomes you have mentioned.

          • Young CC Prof
            August 27, 2014 at 12:23 am #

            No, sorry, there are no hospitals in which one employee can “shut the door” on a woman and ignore her condition for over 24 hours. If nothing else, this hypothetical irresponsible midwife will eventually go off shift.

          • Still tired
            August 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

            Not exactly what I meant. We ‘shut the door’ behind us so nobody really knows what’s happening in the room. We do communicate with the nurses re: dilation progress and such but other than that midwives are pretty much minding their own business. Plus, there are no shifts. Once you are with a client, you are expected to deliver her unless the labour is very long. Usually we call for relief after being up for for 24 hrs, sometimes longer.

    • theadequatemother
      August 19, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

      Epidural without guilt by Gilbert grant!

      • Karen in SC
        August 20, 2014 at 9:26 am #

        That might be a good one to purchase as a donation for your local library.

      • Jessica
        August 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

        Great book. And it’s free for download onto your Kindle from Amazon’s website. 🙂

        • Smoochagator
          August 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

          Thanks for the tip! I just “purchased” it 😉

    • Dr Kitty
      August 20, 2014 at 3:41 am #

      If you wanted an actual medical textbook, I recommend Impey’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
      I found it very straightforward and easy to understand as a medical student, and I’m sure you could get your hands on a second hand copy somewhere.

      Not really what you’re looking for, but I think you should aim big, for the broadest, deepest knowledge possible, so why not read a text that future OBs use.

    • Sue
      August 20, 2014 at 3:47 am #

      And Doula Dani’s blog! (she is a great role model)

    • Cody
      August 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      I would recommend speaking to doctors and nurses A LOT during your certifying births. The best information and experience I’ve gotten as a doula is from the hospital that I volunteer at.

  12. Still tired
    August 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Finally! Thank you for this. I was able to successfully divert a few women from wasting their money on placenta pills using this very piece of physiology and I’m proud of it. Cannot say the same about converting my colleagues, they remain skeptical.

    For the majority of wanna-be placentophages though, the word HORMONES works akin to a magic spell. Their eyes glaze over and then they are lost.

    By the way, “the gland remains quiescent…” sounds very poetic. A summer night, the Milky Way, crickets chirping…

    • katrina
      February 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      you don’t have to “waste” any money on placental pills!
      It is something that can very easily be done yourself for free!

  13. Amy M
    August 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    The “spirit twin” thing always made me laugh. My twin boys are very close, possibly soul-mate level, but they’ve never uttered a word about missing their spirit triplet, which was unceremoniously taken to pathology and then dumped like the medical waste it is.

    People who think a placenta is a spirit twin clearly don’t have twins, are not twins themselves, and don’t know any twins. How can one be a spirit (twin) brother with a piece of meat?

    • Karen in SC
      August 20, 2014 at 9:28 am #

      And then why would the mother eat it? It would be more logical to feed to the fully born twin instead.

  14. Amy M
    August 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    So is there any chance that a woman with little or no milk production, but with complete placental expulsion, could have high levels of progesterone for some other reason (therefore leading to the low/no milk)?

  15. Rita Rippetoe
    August 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    I had read, way back in the 70s, that eating the placenta, if only a small piece, helped stop maternal bleeding.IIRC, it had to be raw, so I assume some hormone was supposed to be involved. I assume this would rule out freeze drying or other processing, not to mention that if Mom is bleeding out there is no time to encapsulate. Does anyone else recall this claim or what it was based on?

    As far as nature goes, eating it to keep it from attracting predators makes the most sense, as does getting back a dose of iron and protein at a time when the new mother may be unable to hunt or forage. Has anyone checked the anthropology data bases to find out whether any known culture consumed the placenta? So far I have only discovered China–but the article I read seemed to imply that it was not just for the mother but may have been eaten by outsiders seeking long life.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
      August 19, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      So far I have only discovered China–but the article I read seemed to imply that it was not just for the mother but may have been eaten by outsiders seeking long life.

      So more of a religious ritual as opposed to anything else, it would seem.

      • KarenJJ
        August 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

        My Chinese colleague (grew up in Malaysia) ate his wife’s placenta (his grandma fried it up with some onion). His wife, who is from mainland China, was quite disgusted and refused to touch it.

        • Sue
          August 20, 2014 at 3:59 am #

          ONION?? BLEAGHHHH!!

          Everyone knows you only cook placenta with KALE!

          • KarenJJ
            August 20, 2014 at 5:07 am #

            True – his grandma probably cooked the sparkles right out of it with those onions!

      • Sue
        August 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

        There is lots of ritualised body part eating in some aspects of traditional Chinese medicine and culture – notably things like bear bile, tiger bones, rhino horn…. being an ancient practice doesn’t make it valid…nor ethical.

    • Still tired
      August 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

      Some midwives I know believe that a. Placenta contains a ton of oxytocin. b. Oxytocin will be absorbed from the oral mucosa and will control the PPH if given by mouth. Read = a raw piece of placenta sitting inside your cheek is good for bleeding control.

      I believe that buccal administration of oxytocin was tried way back then for labour induction as an alternative to IV oxytocin. Can’t imagine it was very efficient since oxytocin is a peptide and would have a hard time absorbing from inside the mouth…For postpartum hemorrhage, forget it, we cannot waste time waiting for it to absorb by mouth. Swallowing would be even worse because, akin to processing, it would alter the chemical structure of oxytocin and cleave it into little pieces. Useless.

      I don’t know why they think placenta contains a ton oxytocin, either…it’s made in the pituitary, then goes into the bloodstream, attaches to receptors on the uterine muscle. Action. Gets eliminated. That’s all…Anyone know?

      • Junebug
        August 19, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

        I would need vomiting control.

      • Amy M
        August 20, 2014 at 7:39 am #

        I’m thinking they believe that because oxytocin is naturally secreted during labor, and would be found in the bloodstream (what’s the half life anyway?), that it might be “trapped” in the blood in the placenta.

        But, like all peptides, it would bind to a receptor, in the uterus, as you mention, and be “used up” as it were. Probably trace amounts would end up in the blood in the placenta, but for how long? And once the placenta is expelled–the blood will drain from it, no? I doubt there are any receptors for oxytocin in placenta itself, and even if there were, the bound form is likely not biologically available. You know what’s in placenta? Aromatase. Lots of it. Or at least high expression of mRNA for aromatase. Which is necessary for estrogen synthesis.

        Now here’s where I get ignorant: there are high levels of e2 during pregnancy, right? But after the baby is born, those levels drop, during lactation (after the placenta is gone), is this correct? And it is known that going on BCPs that contain estrogen can impede milk production. So, if the aromatase was actually biologically available and active, wouldn’t that be bad for milk production? I don’t think it would have much effect on bleeding.

        • Still tired
          August 20, 2014 at 10:38 am #

          Yes, it makes sense. Although I cannot say I have in-depth knowledge of …well, anything, really…but yes, placental aromatase converts androgens to estrogens and once placenta is gone, estrogen levels drop and lactation begins. So it would theoretically be a bad idea to ‘re-introduce’ aromatase. However, chances of it surviving enough to maintain its biological action are pretty slim when we are taking about ingesting it.

          After the placenta is expelled, there’s usually still some blood left in it but like you said, given the half life of oxytocin and likely minute concentrations of it in the placental blood pool, I don’t have much hope for any useful effects. Plus, the idea of sitting there with a cotyledon stuck in your buccal pouch seems disturbing. Taking it a level further, placentas come in different flavours and textures. You get meconium stained varieties, then the inflamed pus-covered ones…then there are calcified ones for that extra crunch..

          • Amy M
            August 20, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

            Huh..I wonder if aromatase inhibitors would have any effect on lactation?

          • Still tired
            August 27, 2014 at 12:20 am #

            Probably. As well as many other effects. Hypothetically, if we take this almighty aromatase inhibitor that irreversibly blocks conversion in all peripheral tissues it’s going to chemically castrate the woman and will result in a gonadotropin spike (by negative feedback). The ovaries will try even harder to make estrogen but since there’s a block in place, we will just end up with a bunch of precursors, androgens. So we now have a hirsute lady with post-menopausal symptoms…ergh… Not a lactation-friendly situation. But then again, I can be wildly off. I haven’t reviewed my Pharma in a while!

      • katrina
        February 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

        Well, i had a very heavy bleed straight after baby 3 and quickly consumed a one inch piece blended into a smoothie and within minutes the bleeding completely stopped much to everyones amazement including mine!
        I had two more smoothies during the next 254 hours, then took capsules we made ourselves for the next few weeks.

        I don’t care HOW it worked, just that it did!
        My postnatal bleeding only lasted 3 days also, rather than the drawn out 6 weeks it had with the other two, and tons of milk came in within 24 hours, so the baby never lost an ounce, but rather had put on 10% of his bodyweight within the first 3 days!

        • yugaya
          February 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

          “I don’t care HOW it worked, just that it did!”

          You take your car to a mechanic because the brake fluid is leaking following driving it over an extremely dangerous and rough patch of the road. The mechanic tells you that he is a natural mechanic who does not believe in testing and current ethical mechanic practice guidelines, and that he will be relying on his other ways of knowing what is wrong with cars. He suggest the pre-modern era technique of collecting the said leaking fluid and just putting it back in, bits of dirt and what else not included. You agree. Your car’s brake fluid stops obviously leaking. You don’t care how it worked what he did, or wonder why is it exactly that all those other fancy repair shops aren’t aware of such amazing, simple, effective treatment, you just put your kids back in the car and drive off happily into the sunset. You don’t for a moment stop to consider all the things that can go wrong due to ill, inadequate repairs of brake fluid leaks in cars:

          If you wouldn’t accept such pathetic level of care for your car, do not accept it for your own body.

  16. Trixie
    August 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Also, isn’t the placenta a repository of evil, dangerous TOXINS? These people are terrified of toxins.

    • Young CC Prof
      August 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Silly Trixie. They aren’t afraid of REAL toxins, like metabolic wastes. They’re afraid of imaginary, unspecified toxins. Actually naming the toxin destroys its magical power to harm your human energy field.

      • Trixie
        August 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

        No, I mean seriously, isn’t that one of the jobs of the placenta? To filter away bad stuff from the baby? So at the end, wouldn’t it have a certain level of heavy metals and PCBs and stuff?

        • MLE
          August 19, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

          I think it sounds about as tasty as eating a dirty dish sponge.

        • Amy M
          August 20, 2014 at 7:40 am #

          Wouldn’t the mother’s liver play a role there?

      • Sue
        August 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

        Only artificially-manufactured chemicals are toxic, doncha know?

      • toni
        August 21, 2014 at 12:19 am #

        Oh lord I have a FB friend always banging on about how sodium lauryl sulfate will give you cancer but totally unconcerned about her children being exposed to listeria from unpasteurized milk because it’s a myth

        • Young CC Prof
          August 21, 2014 at 12:55 am #

          Germ theory is just a theory, right? Like gravity?

        • sankoji
          September 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          I have one of those, too…complete with the same examples you’ve named. And that sunscreen’s efficacy is a myth, but letting yourself receive horrible burns on a daily basis is a healthy way of obtaining Vitamin D (because other moms told you that supplements could instead cause you to overdose.).

  17. NoLongerCrunching
    August 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Eating hormones doesn’t do anything. There’s a reason insulin needs to be injected; stomach acids destroy hormones because they are made of proteins and fats.

    • auntbea
      August 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Protein and fat! YUM!

    • Susan
      August 19, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      I had the same thought but it’s not true of all hormones.. people take oral contraceptives, thyroid supplements, steroids….all orally. Sure this can be looked up but I don’t know why that’s true of insulin and what’s different. Oxytocin obviously can be IV, IM or buccal but I have never heard of oral.

      • Julia
        August 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

        My guess would be because insulin is a peptide hormone, while oral contraceptives are steroid hormones and thyroid hormones are basically modified amino acids. Peptide bonds are hydrolyzed during digestion.

        • Sue
          August 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

          Yet another example that it helps to know your biochemistry and physiology.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

        This was all addressed in the comments to yesterday’s post. I recommend checking that out.

  18. auntbea
    August 19, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Would eating the placenta actually do anything to hormone levels at all? Would it actually interfere with anything, exquisitely coordinated or otherwise?

    • Susan
      August 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      My first thought too… is there any evidence that the hormone levels really change when it’s eaten? I agree that it’s hooey woo unicorn shit but am curious if it really does interfere with lactogenesis or if that’s theoretical.

      • fiftyfifty1
        August 19, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

        No evidence. I think this piece is just pointing out that when NCB types say “Eat the placenta–because HORMONES of course”, that they fail to realize that the hormones that they consume would if anything be sending them in the wrong direction from where their bodies need to go. In the end, the dosages they consume don’t matter, especially because most Placenta Charlatans recommend eating only a few capsules per day. The biggest danger, as others have mentioned, is food bourne illness and probably even worse than that just the $ you waste that could be better spent.

        • Still tired
          August 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

          Given that it is, in fact, their placenta. There’s no way to find out. Heck, if I were to make money out of this, I’d come up with a bulk amount of some organic ground up substrate of no hazardous potential, prepare my pills ahead of time, and use placentas as…I dunno. Fertilizer? Cat food? Save myself time and effort, you know.

          • KarenJj
            August 19, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

            Bury it under a tree in the backyard. Seems to be the tradition from NZ. Meant to be fantastic for fruit trees.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      August 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      It probably does nothing at all to hormone levels, but if it actually changed hormone levels it would have harmful effects, not beneficial effects.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

        I don’t think there is any reason to think it has harmful effects. Other animals, including apes, eat their placenta all the time. In fact, there is reason to think it provides an evolutionary advantage. Of course, most likely that advantage is that you don’t have raw flesh lying around to attract predators or other scavengers (I don’t think you want vultures picking around your nest if you are an orangutan, much less lions and tigers and bear oh my)

        • Young CC Prof
          August 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

          That, and, well, it IS food. Calories, probably high in iron.

          Luckily, we have grocery stores, so I got to send my husband out to buy a steak, and let the placenta get dropped into a medical-waste chute somewhere.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            August 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

            That, and, well, it IS food. Calories, probably high in iron

            In the same way that a dog eats it’s own vomit.

            But note that orangutans for example, unlike dogs, are mostly fruit eaters, and so nominally don’t eat organs, even fresh ones. You could make an argument that they are hungry immediately after giving birth and lacking stockpiled fruit they go for whatever is there, but I suspect there is also food available in captivity and they still go for the placenta.

          • Who?
            August 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

            ‘In the same way a dog eats its own vomit’

            or anyone else’s…

            though he doesn’t care for alcohol laced vomit-which I know thanks to a party guest who shall remain unnamed…

          • Trixie
            August 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

            I also wonder how effectively an herbivore even digests a placenta.
            Although, for an herbivore, it probably is an important way to get back some of the iron that was just expended.

          • Cobalt
            August 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

            I’ve seen lots of equine births, not once did I see a mare show any interest in eating the placenta. A horse placenta is huge, it’s structure actually covers the entire uterus. It would fill a lot of belly.

          • Young CC Prof
            August 19, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

            How much iron does a horse placenta actually have, though? Horses and the other big quadrupeds aren’t hemochorial, which means they don’t make the kind of literal blood sacrifice we do.

            That may be the weirdest question I’ve asked all week.

          • Cobalt
            August 20, 2014 at 8:29 am #

            I have no idea about iron content, but I’ve never known of a horse taking iron supplementation. I know they don’t bleed a whole lot in a typical birth, and if they deliver in the field the mare and foal are not near the birth site (and predator attractive placenta) very long.

        • KarenJJ
          August 19, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

          Does the ape that give birth eat it? Or is it someone else.
          The other thing that would be different is that, even if it is the mother eating the placenta, they would be eating it in one go shortly after birth. Not eating little bits of it for weeks and weeks.

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            August 20, 2014 at 7:37 am #

            Does the ape that give birth eat it?

            With the orang, it is definitely the mother, since she is the only one there. They give birth solitarily.

            But yeah, she eats it all up at once.

    • Still tired
      August 19, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

      I don’t think anyone studied this. Here in Ontario the trend is on the rise so I’ve cared for maybe a couple dozen women who were taking the pills in the postpartum. Objectively, I haven’t noticed any effects. Most lactated just fine. I know, I know…observation isn’t much but better than nothing 🙂

  19. gretta
    August 19, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    But Dr Amy!! I don’t understand them hard science words you are using. I’m just gonna ignore all that mumbo jumbo and believe this nice lady who keeps telling me about spirit twins and magic and other more funner stuff.

    • Haelmoon
      August 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      I don’t think I would want to eat the spirit twin of my child. Sounds wrong.

      • Cobalt
        August 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

        Rude at the least.

        • Siri
          August 20, 2014 at 2:44 am #

          Honey, I ate the kids’ spiritual twins!

          • yugaya
            August 20, 2014 at 11:55 am #

            What about babies whose evil spiritual twin attempted to kill them? I’m seeing a whole new market there for placenta rebonding ritual that can be purchased either separately or as a part of the birth reclaiming ceremony:

          • Young CC Prof
            August 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

            Indeed, babies with 2 vessel cords or partial abruptions may need such rituals to prevent attachment disorders later in life. No matter how bad the heart rate gets during labor, a re-bonding ceremony will repair any damage!

  20. Votre
    August 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Will there ever come a time when some AG’s office works up the energy to prosecute some of these people for fraud? Last I heard, all the disclaimers in the world won’t absolve you (or your seminars or books or videos) of legal liability for knowingly promulgating documentable falsehoods when you’re offering advisements for a price.

    • Who?
      August 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Probably there are bigger fish to fry-and if I wanted to go after this crowd for fraud it would be around the nonsense they talk about the safety of homebirth not the weird uselessness of consuming a placenta.

      And if we wanted to get started on the lotions and potions and powders and poultices they sell, they would probably be lined up behind the entire homeopathic product industry, which every woo-giddy person will tell you is not an arm of big pharma.

  21. AL
    August 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    A little OT, but I hope that Lactation consultants are aware of this. My best friend delivered her baby in May and had super low milk supply. Her milk didn’t come in until day 8 or 9. Then her bleeding kicked up at the 5 week mark. At her 6 week follow up, turns out she had placental fragments still attached, which is probably why her milk output was so horrible. Of course, lac consultant told her to pump and feed, and basically not sleep. She supplements with formula and her supply seems to have gone up since her D&C, but the whole pump and feed until you kill yourself obv wasn’t going to work considering there was a physical reason why she couldn’t produce milk.

    • anh
      August 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

      I’ve been somewhat astounded by the lack of knowledge of some lactation consultants. Mine told me I just randomly had low supply and that my daughter’s tongue tie was unrelated. When I said she wasn’t really nursing, and perhaps not stimulating my breast she said it was because I wasn’t making enough milk to interest her.

      Another commented my daughter was a lazy latcher because her upper lip never stayed flared out and always rolled in. She scolded me quite seriously. A two second check would have revealed she had a lip tie too.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

        With our younger, our LC decided he had a lazy lower lip or something. However, instead of blaming my wife or anything, she showed us how to pull his lip out to fix it. That was helpful.
        We had to do it every time for the first while, but it worked

      • Guesteleh
        August 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

        My son had an abnormal latch that multiple LCs failed to diagnose. We didn’t figure out the problem until he was a year old and diagnosed with a mechanical issue that prevented him from eating solid foods unless they were purees. Our OT said it should’ve been screamingly obvious that he had an abnormal latch, especially since my nipples looked like hamburger. I have zero faith that LCs are being consistently trained to a real professional standard.

        • Amy M
          August 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

          I remember calling an LC,when about 2wk postpartum, I got plugged ducts. From that point on, they were constant—every 3hrs, I would work out one or more plugs, only to have the same one or new ones pop up for the next pumping. It didn’t matter what bra I wore, or anything. So I called an LC, for some help and she couldn’t suggest anything more than what I already saw online (apply heat and massage the plug until it goes away.) I don’t know, maybe that’s all anyone CAN do, but it wasn’t very helpful. It only took a week of that to develop mastitis, and after another week, I decided it was a waste of time. I didn’t really have any breastfeeding goals, and I wasn’t sorry to stop, but I remember feeling like calling the LC was totally pointless. I wonder how the really stellar LCs would have handled that?

    • MichelleJo
      August 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      I’ve long thought that all ‘breastfeeding counselors’ in the UK and ‘lactation consultants’ in the US should be arrested for child abuse. They have no business sticking their uneducated selves into an area so critical.

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

        To quote random unnamed people, “Not all lactation consultants are bad.” So we can’t arrest all of them.

        However, I have no problem assessing them on a case-by-case basis. Although I would like to see the good ones take more of a stand against the bad ones.

        • MichelleJo
          August 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

          I am under no illusions of this happening any time soon. Can you imagine what would happen if a lactivist were taken to court accused of causing the starvation of a baby? She’d be an instant celebrity, being ‘persecuted by doctors’. Their lobby and sheer numbers are just too strong. The law hasn’t even been able to stop staight out baby killers to continue their work.

        • Trixie
          August 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

          Like this?

          • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
            August 20, 2014 at 11:01 am #

            I wish there were more like her, for sure.

      • Young CC Prof
        August 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

        I think the key problem is that there IS a lack of breastfeeding science. It’s like where actual medicine was a bit more than 100 years ago.

        However, while a few researchers are doing actual science, most of them are actively fighting against it. Try talking honestly about breastfeeding problems, you aren’t welcome at the table, because you’re “sabotaging” nursing relationships. Well, maybe some relationships need sabotaging.

  22. fiftyfifty1
    August 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    “They create a fantasy physiology […] where birth in water (unknown in any primate species) is natural.”

    This reminds me of an exchange that I heard occurred at my hospital. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the CNM group that delivers there has become increasingly woo worshiping. They are continuing to promote water births despite already experiencing a couple of cord avulsion events and having to address a visible-slime-found-coating-the-birth-pool-despite-already-having-been-cleaned-by-housekeeping problem.
    Anyway, apparently one of the CNMs was holding forth about the seal diving reflex. One of the OBs listened and then replied “But I deliver human babies, not seal babies, so I will be delivering on dry land”. Which I thought was a clever reply. Although actually an even more clever, and more accurate reply would have been “Even seals leave the water and deliver on dry land”.

    • guest
      August 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      Good one!

    • auntbea
      August 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      Visible slime? *whimper*

      • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
        August 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

        That was my reaction as well.

      • fiftyfifty1
        August 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

        Well, the L&D nurse who discovered the problem told me that she actually discovered it by feel when her hand touched it. She looked at it and couldn’t initially see anything amiss until she looked so close that her nose was almost touching it and then she was able to see that there were patches of slime coating scattered across the surface.

        • Guesteleh
          August 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

          That’s not better. *retch*

        • jenny
          August 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

          OMG ew. Biofilm. THAT’S totally no big deal.

          • Petanque
            August 20, 2014 at 6:02 am #

            Bacterial biofilm is completely natural!

    • Who?
      August 19, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Surely cleaning out a birthing tub involves a bit more than a quick once over with the Vim or Gumption? Though I guess it only stays clean until the freshly showered (someone please assure me she is freshly showered) new-mamma-to-be climbs in?

      The whole idea is gross.

    • jenny
      August 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

      Cord avulsion??? Please tell me the baby was ok. 🙁

  23. fiftyfifty1
    August 19, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    “It’s an elegant system”

    Meh. I would call it a good enough most of the time system.

    • Young CC Prof
      August 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

      I would venture to say that most biological systems are beautiful and elegant in design, but in practice only usually good enough.

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa
      August 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      My definition of “elegant” is “stupidly simple.” In that respect, I think calling the process elegant is reasonable. It’s set up so that the detach of placenta triggers the production of milk. That’s pretty slick, since that is something that is common to births. Moreover, it’s a binary switch. Placenta there: don’t do it. Placenta gone: go

      And it explains why you can get milk production from a c-section, without having to go through labor.

      Yes, there are complications due to retained placenta, but that’s where the “good enough” comes in. The mechanism itself, as my old buddy would say, is “slicker than snot.”

      • Roadstergal
        August 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

        Is it easier to ensure that the placenta is entirely removed with a C-section than a VB?

        • Susan
          August 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm #


          • Roadstergal
            August 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

            That was what I thought. It seems to be another way to get NCBers caught in a logical loop. “Is breastfeeding the most important thing in the world, ever? Then be sure you have a C-section.”

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