It's hard to believe there was a time, not so very long ago, when nobody really talked a whole lot about the placenta. That was before they became en vogue among the fashionable set as jewelry, potential photo ops, and consumables through all sorts of mediums. Think a yummy placenta smoothie, or for the faint of heart, perhaps simply some freeze-dried placenta pills. Unfortunately for all of those stylish new moms out there, a new study claims that placenta pills might be more dangerous than initially suspected.
While celebrities and regular moms alike have been touting the recuperative benefits of consuming their placentas, much like many animals in the wild have been doing for ages, it seems humans might be at risk of developing a bacterial infection from placenta pills. According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last fall a newborn in Oregon appeared to develop a strep infection that caused difficulty breathing. Even after a course of antibiotics, the newborn tested positive for strep twice. Doctors researched the possible cause and came to the conclusion that the baby's mother was taking freeze-dried placenta pills, which also tested positive for the strep infection. Doctors believed the pills increased the levels of strep in the mother, and the baby contracted the bacterial infection through her.
The mother reportedly had sent her placenta to a private company (which was not named) to have it processed into pills, and researchers believed the bacterial infection could have gotten into the placenta pills in the facility.
In the last decade, the practice of placentophagy, consuming your baby's placenta, has taken off. Many mothers believe that placenta pills help with postpartum depression, stimulate better breast milk production, and improve waning energy levels. It's important to note that there has never been any medical proof to these claims, nor any published medical study to support these findings. Still, that hasn't stopped thousands of mothers across the United States from trying it out. Celebrity endorsements from people like January Jones and Kim Kardashian West have certainly helped promote the practice.
This study marks the first time the scientific community has spoken out about the potential dangers of placenta pills, according to Sharon Young, a UNLV researcher. She told the Associated Press:
I’ve heard physicians say there’s no benefit to doing it, that it’s pointless. But I can’t remember a statement so strongly advising against it, from a physician or anyone.
At the end of the day, fads are fads. If placenta pills were no more than a harmless fad, that's one thing. But if there's the slightest chance they could make your baby sick... that's quite another issue entirely.