As someone who's been at this parenting gig a while, and has subjected myself (and my kids) to quite a few parenting trends over the years, I tend to view most parenting choices, as "you do you and I'll do me." However, I draw the line at choices that might put someone or their kids in harms' way. I don't want people to get hurt just because something seemed like a good idea and everyone else was doing it. That's one of the many reasons why I refused to eat my placenta and, honestly, why I think you shouldn't either.
I totally get why some people decide to eat their placentas. When you are a new mom and are struggling with postpartum depression (PPD) or undersupply, your baby is not thriving, or all of the above like me, you are willing to try almost anything (even really unsafe or gross things) if you think they'll help. The problem with eating your placenta is that it won't help. Seriously, it won't. According to NPR and Daniel Benyshek, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas who has studied placentaphagy, "We simply don't know what all the potential benefits or risks are yet," to a postpartum woman eating her placenta.
I know you are probably thinking, "Is this lady seriously trying to tell me what to do?" and, "Why should I listen to her?" and even, potentially, What a b*tch." I get it, and I'm really not in the business of telling other women what to do. however, when it comes to things like protecting new moms and their babies from being harmed by pseudoscience, and stopping a unregulated industry from preying on vulnerable peoples' fears, I'll take the heat, so-to-speak. So, yes, I didn't eat my placenta and I don't think you should, either. Here's why:
Because It Doesn't Work
There's no evidence to support the idea that eating your placenta is beneficial. In fact, a 2015 review of 10 studies by Northwestern Medicine on the subject did not find any data to support claims that eating raw, cooked, or encapsulated placenta does any of the things people claim. So no, unfortunately, it won't help with your postpartum depression, post-delivery pain, energy levels, breast milk supply, skin elasticity, bonding with your babies, or iron levels.
Because It Could Be Dangerous
Not only does it not work, according to this article by Dr. Jennifer Gunter, it could actually be dangerous. The placenta is a filter organ, which removes waste and protects your fetus from harm. It also degrades during pregnancy. You have no way of knowing if it’s contaminated, calcified, or spoiled, so why would you put it in your mouth?
Because It's Super Gross
I know, gross is in the eye, or should I say mouth, of the beholder, but hear me out. For all intents and purposes, your placenta is meat, and that meat could be spoiled or contaminated with toxins or bacteria. Whether you bring it home in a cooler or have someone freeze dry it in their kitchen, you have no way of knowing if it's safe to eat. Do you want to risk getting food poisoning during your first few days with your newborn, by eating something that doesn't freaking work?
Because It Can Make You Skip Important Health Care
The things eating your placenta is supposed to treat, like postpartum depression and undersupply, can be really freaking serious. I've been there. If you buy into the promise that eating your placenta can prevent PPD or increase your breast milk supply, you might forego important or even lifesaving medical treatment for you or your baby, while you wait to see if it works. As someone who had both PPD and undersupply, I don't want you to delay getting real help for real problems, and I definitely don't want you or your baby to get hurt.
Because It Costs Money
A vast majority of birth professionals, like midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants, recommend and sell “placenta encapsulation” as a service. That service, dear reader, is incredibly expensive. So, essentially and when looking at the scientific research, new mothers end up spending an inordinate amount of money on a "product" that doesn't work.
Because It's Unregulated
Encapsulated placenta is treated like a supplement in the US, which means it's not regulated by the FDA. That means not only can it be legally prepared by an untrained, unlicensed person, but you have no way of knowing how it was prepared, if it’s safe to eat, or if the pills they deliver even contain your placenta.
Just Because Animals Do It, Doesn't Mean People Should
Yes, it's true that lots of animals eat their placenta, mainly because they are hungry and vulnerable after birth and need to hide from predators. I don't know about you, but I wanted fries and a milk shake after birth, and I've never encountered a predator in the delivery room.
Because It's Essentially A Placebo
Many people claim it worked for them, but according to this NPR article, they likely experienced the "placebo effect." Their anecdotes are not proof that it actually works, but rather, simply proof that they started feeling better or producing more milk, which could be the result of 1,000 different things they did or didn't do. Correlation does not equal causation, you guys.
Because It Feeds Into A Harmful Culture
People don't often think about the consequences of doing something that seems innocent or assume that it won't hurt others. The problem is that according to some doctors, trying it can hurt. This is the same sort of "series of unfortunate events" that the anti-vaccination crowd uses to convince people to not vaccinate their kids, which is so not cool.
Because I Care
If you ate your placenta, I probably sound like a b*tch right about now. Honestly, I know I can't tell you what to do, but it feels wrong to mind my own business and not warn people of potential harm. Because I care about you. Seriously, I do.