Mothers eating their placenta post-birth has become a growing fad, raved about by celebrities like Kim Kardashian. But a new B.C. study suggests there is next to no mental or physical health benefits.
Researchers with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services and the University of British Columbia conducted the largest study to date looking at the effects of eating one’s placenta, which is also known as placentophagy. The placenta is a blood-rich organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy, and is how a fetus receives nutrition and oxygen to grow.
“When you ask women why they’re consuming their placenta, many will say that they think it will help improve their mood in the postpartum period,” said Jehannine Austin, executive director of the health agency’s research institute, in a news release Thursday.
“But there has been no research evidence showing that it really works, and our new study adds weight to this idea.”
The placenta can be consumed raw or dried and is most commonly made into capsules.
The practice has existed in Chinese medicine for centuries and is promoted in parts of India and elsewhere. Apes, monkeys, rodents and bunnies are some of the many animals who eat the placenta post-birth.
Over recent years, many celebrities from the Kardashian clan to actress Alicia Silverstone have claimed the practice boosted their physical and mental health, but studies suggest it actually poses risks for mothers and babies, such as viral and bacterial infections.
The B.C.-based study used data from a 10-year genetic survey involving 138 women who had a history of mood disorders. Researchers compared the outcomes between those who had eaten their placenta and those who had not.
In addition to the lack of health improvement, women who ate the placenta also didn’t have more energy or higher vitamin B12 levels. Some also still struggled with lactation.
Austin recommended that women who are concerned about postpartum depression speak with their doctor, midwife or public health nurse.
Womencan also access services through the Pacific Post Partum Support Society and the Reproductive Mental Health program at BC Children’s Hospital.