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When I tell people that I am a placenta specialist, I am met with a variety of reactions! In the following post I’ve outlined some of the common questions and objections I encounter, and my response to each. Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

**If you are interested in my placenta services, please don’t hesitate to give me a call (519) 546 5385 or send me an email at imagineonelovecare@gmail.com **

Common Questions

  1. Why do people choose to consume their placentas?

There are many different motivating factors that lead women to make the decision to consume their placentas. For many women it is the first-hand accounts from friends; they hear of their perception of how ingesting their placentas positively affected their postpartum recovery and overall health. Some women consume their placentas to help stop bleeding, heal wounds, and reduce pain. Some women practice placentophagy with the hope to decrease their likelihood of post-partum mood disorders, and others hope to increase their milk supply. Some women may choose to ingest their placenta because it is a common behavior among all other land mammals.

  1. What does the placenta consist of?

The placenta is rich in a variety of nutrients, hormones, minerals, opioids, amino acids, and stem cells. Some of the hormones that the placenta is known to contain are estrogen, progesterone, androgen, growth hormone (Phaupradit et al, 691), and steroids (Beacock, 464), and placenta is thought to contain corticotrophin-releasing hormone (Beacock, 465). Amino acids found in placental tissue include peptides, indoleamines, and catecholeminds (Beacock 464). The levels of minerals that are particularly high within human placenta include sodium, potassium, and phosphorus (Phaupradit et al, 692). “The placenta is also thought to retain several other hormones, opioids, and nutrients previously stored and transported within it, including proteins, iron, vitamin B6,[and]  oxytocin (Beacock, 465).

  1. How can these vitamins and minerals benefit me?

Based on anecdotal evidence as well as scientific studies, it is possible that the vitamins and minerals contained in placental tissue may increase milk supply, reduce pain, increase speed in which wounds heal, and decrease rates of postpartum mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Studies have revealed a correlation between low iron levels and fatigue (Vernon et al). Low levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone are correlated with postpartum, depression (Discover). Multiple studies have “reported that estrogen supplementation significantly reduced postpartum depressive symptoms” (Hendrick et al). According to studies observing the effects of placentophagia and lab rats, placentophagia increases levels of opioid-analgesia, thus elevating pain threshold (Kristal).

According to Beacock, “boosting mother’s iron stores through placentophagy results in more energy, and concequently less postnatal depression because low income and fatigue are PND risk factors…. A similar assertion is that ingesting vitamin B6 found in the placenta prevents PND and encourages postnatal wound healing – B6 supplementation is indeed an established treatment for PND and has a proven role in regulating mental process and mood. It is also implicated in cellular replication and antibody protection” (466).

  1. What are some of the ways placenta can be prepared?

There are a variety of ways that placenta can be prepared for consumption. Some women choose to simply eat a small (bite-sized) piece of their placenta, raw, immediately after delivery. Others blend this bite-sized piece in a smoothie, often also choosing to include raspberries to mask the red colour. Placenta can also be cooked whole in the oven as one would cook other organ meats, like liver or kidneys, possibly served with onions, gravy, and mashed potatoes.

Many women choose to have their placenta professionally prepared, instead of consuming in these more simple ways. Some of the methods of professional placenta preparation are dehydration and encapsulation, making it into a tincture, salve, or soap.

  1. What is your personal experience with placentophagy?

I consumed the placentas after the birth of both of my two children. My firstborn’s placenta was encapsulated and made into a tincture, and my second born’s was just encapsulated (as I still have an ample supply of tincture remaining from my firstborn so did not feel I need more). I personally notice an acute feeling of calmness and mild euphoria after ingesting a placenta capsule. During the postpartum periods I recovered quickly and had high energy levels. I have a very high milk supply and have not had any troubles breastfeeding. I have many “risk factors” for postpartum depression but have not felt any symptoms of postnatal mood disorders.  I now use the tincture when I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed and notice an immediate relief. I plan to use the tincture to help reduce menopausal symptoms in my future.

 

Objections Rebuttal

  1. Objection: “There hasn’t been much research about placentophagy”

There have been many studies documenting the effect of placentophagy, dating from 1954 to the 21st century. There are also a wide array of other scientific studies which results can feasibly be assumed to apply to placentophagy, documenting the benefits of taking supplements such as iron, estrogen, and B6, which are known to be found within placental tissue. In addition to the two books devoted entirely to researching the placenta that were assigned in the Traditions unit, the Association of Placenta Preparation Arts include 17 accredited articles, most of which were published in medical journals, to ensure that the placenta encapsulation specialists who certify with this organization are well versed on the research that can be applied to placentophagy. However, it is certainly true that there is space for new research to be conducted on the subject of placentophagy, and I believe that this research will be conducted in the near future because placenta encapsulation is so quickly gaining in popularity in recent years.

  1. Objection: “There seem not to be any human cultures on record that routinely practice, or practiced, placentophagia” (Kristal, 2)

It is commonly stated that “there seem not to be any human cultures on record that routinely practice, or practiced, placentophagia” (Kristal, 2) however this statement is easily shown to be inaccurate when a variety of historian’s discussion of placenta traditions are considered. According to E, Croft Long in their article The Placenta in Lore and Legend, “there are many curious customs concerned with the eating of the placenta” (238). Croft Long goes on to describe traditions involving placentophagy in Hungary, Java, Moravia (Czechoslovakia), Morocco, China, Italy, and Rumania. Gelis also discusses traditional placentophagia, noting that “placental opotherapy was practiced in Antiquity, and Hippocratic texts speak of the human afterbirth as an element in the pharmacopoeic.; the doctors of Salerno went on prescribing it, as did the practitioners of the seventeenth century” (Gelis, 168-169). Beacock discusses how “TCM has for over 1400 years used Zi-he-che (human placenta) hypogaglactia following childbirth and for a variety of other conditions including fertility, impotence, dizziness, tinnitus, emaciation, asthma, and epilepsy” (Beacock, 467).

  1. Objection: Animals only practice placentophagy because they want to clean their nest site and hide evidence of the birth from predators

Both scientists Kristal and Soykova-Pachnerova go into detail dismantling the theory that mammalian placentophagia can be explained away by the desire for cleanliness of the birth site and a motivation to hide the birth from predators. Kristal outlines four significant problems with this theory. Firstly, mammals who are not threatened by predators practice placentpphagia. Secondly, “mothers of non-nesting species (e.g. ruminants) eat the afterbirth, and in fact, remain at the birthsite long after the neonate is able to walk away, in order to finish consuming the placenta”(4). Thirdly, mammals who deliver high in the trees do not choose to allow their placentas to fall to the ground (thus cleaning the nesting site and removing the evidence of the birth), but choose to spend hours holding onto the placenta in order to finish consuming it. Lastly, “the olfactory cues emanating from the fluids that have saturated the ground might be expected to be an effective predator attractants, and these fluids are apparently not cleaned up during placentophagia” (4).

  1. Objection: Animals only practice placentophagy because they are hungry or experiencing a temporary shift to voracious carnivorousness

Kristal has also dismantled the theory that placentophagy at delivery is reflective of a general shift to carnivorousness by conducting controlled studies with monkeys and rats in which other meats are offered to the mothers postnatally instead the placentas, and the other meats were repeatedly refused (2). “Delivery in the rat is not preceded by a period of hypophagia, which suggests that atleast in the rat, hunger is not the explanation of parturitional placentopahgia” (Kristal, 2).

  1. Isn’t it unhealthy to eat an organ like the placenta that acts as a filter for toxins?

To me this common objection seems relatively ironic in a society in which the beef liver is found on the shelves of many grocery stores and menus of many restaurants, as the liver is known to be a filter for toxins (and I would also argue that the average cow’s feed and medicinal treatments contain far more toxins than the average pregnant woman would be consuming). According to Keller, of the Association of Placenta Preparation Arts, though “the placenta is often referred to as a filter; this isn’t an ideal term for the placenta considering its function in the body… A more suitable way of looking at it would be as a gate keeper between the mother and the fetus. The placenta’s job is to keep the maternal and fetal blood separate, at the same time allowing nutrients to pass to the fetus, gas exchange to occur, and allowing waste from the fetus to pass through the mother, . The placenta does prevent some toxins from passing through to the fetus but they are not stored in the placenta. Toxins in the body and waste from the fetus are processed by the mother’s liver and kidneys for elimination” (Keller).


 

Bibliography

Beacock, Michelle. “Does eating placenta offer postpartum health benefits?” British Journal of

Midwifery. 20:7 (July 2012) p. 464-469.

Croft Long, E. “The Placenta in Lore and Legend.” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association.

51:2. (April 1963). P. 233-241.

Discover (December 1995). CRH Study. Baby blues – postpartum  depression attributed to low

levels of corticotropin releasing hormone after placenta is gone. (Online)

Gelis, Jaques. History of Childbirth: Fertility, Pregnancy, and Birth in Early Modern Europe.

Longdon: Polity, August 1996.

Hendrick, Victoria; Lori L. Altshuler and Rita Suri. “Hormonal changes in the postpartum and

implications for postpartum depression” Psychosomatics. 39:2 (March- April 1998). P,

93-101.

Keller, Nicole. “Uncovering the Truth About Bacteria and Heavy Metals in the Placenta”

Association of Placenta Preparation Arts (August, 2015).

Kristal, Mark B. “Placentophagia: A Biobehavioural Enigma” Neuroscience & Biobehavioural

Reviews 4 (February 1980) p. 141-150.

Phaupradit, Winit; Boonsri Chanrachakul; Phichai Thuvasethaleul; Supatra Leeelaphiwat; Suriya

Sassanarakkit and Supat Chanwarachaikul. “Nutrients and Hormones in Heat Dried-

Human Placenta” J Med Assoc Tha, 83:6. (June 2000). P. 690-694).

Soykova-Pachnerova, Ela; Vlastimil Brutar and Eva Zvolska. “Placenta as a Lactogen”.

Gynaecologia. 136:6 (1954). P. 617-627.

 

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