By  Rachel Boardman M.R.N.I. Naturopathic Iridologist and Herbalist.

When I read the January Jones article sent to me by Kay (link below,), I was intrigued. The actress had done an interview with People magazine and mentioned that she’s had her placenta ‘encapsulated’ into supplements.

I’ve heard frying up ones placenta with an onion and some herbs and eating it for breakfast the day after the birth could be beneficial but I have to admit it was never for me and I never really looked into it.

I remember the sharp inhale of the press in 2006 when Tom Cruise said that this was exactly what he was going to do after the birth of his little girl.  The response was so negative that he quickly denied ever saying it.

I have also read somewhere that Chaplin, Churchill and Eisenhower had all supposedly used sheep’s Placenta creams as an attempt to stay youthful but I hadn’t really looked into Placentophagy until now.

Placentophagy is adopted by most mammals including primates and whilst some theories believe this is to obtain much needed nutrition, or help stimulate the bonding response to baby, some believe it’s just natures protection of hiding any signs of a new life from predators.

Mark Kristal, a behavioral neuroscientist and America’s leading authority on Placetophagia has been researching this for over 20 years, believing that the Placenta must offer a fundamental biological advantage to all mammals.

What this is though is still a mystery!

He believes Placentohagia is a fad that has come around every 10 years or so, from the first recorded movement; the 70’s communes. Placentas do, however, carry a special spiritual significance.

In ancient Egypt it had it’s own hieroglyph and in Chinese medicine small doses of dried placenta are used to alleviate impotency and lactation maladies.

The Pacific people have a place they call their ‘Turangawaiwai‘, which is also the name of the Placenta and they would plant this over the roots of a tree where the child  & the tree would grow alongside each other.

This I particularly loved and I would have done this for my first child had I not forgotten to take it home!

But getting back to the supposed benefits of Placentophagy though most scientist agree evidence of any of this is tenuous: Balancing hormones, preventing baby blues that 80% of women experience. Enhancing milk supply and ncreasing your energy from the inevitable sleep deprivation.  The Placenta contains high levels of Iron, Vitamin B12, and hormones such as Prostaglandin, which stimulates the shrinking of the Uterus plus Oxytocin to ease birth stress and assist in lactation but the cooking, freeze-drying, encapsulating (as used by January Jones) of the Placenta- like all food processing- greatly reduces these nutrients and hormones. Dehydrating from raw would make more sense.

*Not for the faint-hearted* Some women have bravely whisked up theirs raw in a blender with coconut water and a banana and have reported ‘the wildest rush. It was definitely physical‘.

Dr Maggie Blott, from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, however, dismisses these theories

Having said all of this, there has been so much positive feedback from mums that I’d say if it is working for them then absolutely wonderful!                                                                               Below; placenta to go?

A woman called Selander felt that  Placentophagy worked so well for her after the birth of her baby that she started an afterbirth empire in 2006, coining the term  ‘Placenta encapsulation’ and standardized the transformation of Placenta into pills in the USA. She even campaigned on behalf a client in 2007 when a hospital in Nevada refused to hand over her Placenta.  In fact, many hospitals refuse to hand a woman’s Placenta over citing ‘hospital policy ‘.

As a practitioner I tend to agree with Dr Weil, a specialist in integrative medicine, who writes;  “cooked, freeze-dried Placenta would, in my view have virtually no effect and at $275 for 121 capsules it would be much more beneficial to take a fish oil supplement or to eat cold water, fatty fish such as wild Salmon Herring and Sardine”.  Two studies I found showed a 50% reduction in Post-Partum Depression in women with relatively high Omega 3’s. Dr Maggie Blott writes that ‘if a women is well nourished in pregnancy and after birth there is no benefit, no reason for placenta encapsulation”.

 Making sure you have enough nutrients may mean you take a pre-natal /ante-natal supplement with Essential Fatty Acids.

 Also an infusion of herbs that promote lactation are delicious and full of nutrients such as Nettle, Fennel and Fenugreek Seeds.  

I feel that having read as much as I have about Placentophagy I would whole heartedly recommend a well balanced diet in pregnancy and after. This is what is essential for you.

The original People magazine interview that caused all the headlines here

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