among women has become increasingly prevalent in the past decade, to
promote health and healing during the postpartum period.
breast-feeding mothers prefer a non-pharmacological approach for the
management of postpartum depression, to prevent the side-effects
associated with the medication on infants.
study assesses the familiarity and attitude of patients and providers,
towards placentophagy and identifies the perceived benefits and/or risks
associated with the practice.
Familiarity and attitudes of patients and physician towards
placentophagy and the patient's willingness to try it, were examined in a
Placentophagy refers to the maternal consumption of the placenta
after birth. The placenta can be consumed raw, cooked, or in an encapsulated
‘Patients with a history of a self-reported mental health disorder were more willing to consider placentophagy.’
The placenta is a vascular organ that begins to form in the uterus
shortly after conception.
, it acts as a channel for nourishing the baby by providing oxygen
and nutrients and filtering out potentially harmful substances.
Placenta is a major source of steroid and peptide hormones that
are critical to the maintenance of pregnancy, timing of birth, and fetal
Many mammalian species consume the raw placenta
immediately after delivery.
Experiments in rats have shown that opioid effect from placental
consumption enhances endogenous pain relief. But in humans, there is limited
evidence available to support the benefits and/or risks of placentophagy.
Certain cultures around the world practice ritualistic ceremonies
surrounding the placenta. Chinese and Egyptian historical accounts describe the
placenta as having medicinal properties, used for healing and fatigue.
Some of the common self-reported benefits of placentophagy are
improved energy, mood, and lactation.
Few studies suggest that encapsulated (which are dehydrated and
pulverized) human placenta contains several hormones like estradiol
in low concentrations and trace
minerals like iron, arsenic, and manganese.
The concentrations of iron were high, and potentially toxic
elements, such as arsenic and lead, were below recommended toxicity levels.
But it remains unclear whether the concentrations of these
elements are enough to achieve a therapeutic benefit or an adverse effect.
The proposed benefits of placentophagy include:
advantages (such as iron supplementation)
of postpartum depression
Considering Placentophagy for Postpartum
Women face multiple problems during the postpartum period because
of hormonal fluctuations, added responsibility, and increased stress
(PPD) is a common problem that up to one in five women experience
Due to the untoward effects of anti-depressants on infants, health
care providers are often hesitant to prescribe medication to breast-feeding
Both pregnant and postpartum women are more likely to prefer
non-pharmacologic treatment methods for depression relapse/prevention and for
them, consuming the placenta may appeal as a more natural remedy to address
potential depressive symptoms
To promote health and healing during the postpartum period, the
practice of maternal human placentophagy has become increasingly prevalent in
the past decade among women.
But the extent of knowledge of clinicians or patients about the
potential positive and negative health effects associated with this practice is
still not clear.
The research team conducted two cross-sectional surveys to
assess the familiarity with,
and attitude towards placentophagy among patients and providers.
The health care provider survey was distributed via email
listservers to international perinatal professional organizations and
obstetrics and gynecology, nurse midwifery, family medicine, and psychiatry
departments at three urban hospitals.
Female patients who were 18 years or older were recruited between
June 2014 and January 2015 from Prentice Women's Hospital and the Asher Center
for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders, a clinic at Northwestern
Hospital specializing in women's perinatal mental health.
The patient survey consisted of 36 multiple-choice format
questions and several free response items. The survey was divided into five key
toward placentophagy compared with traditional medical treatments including
willingness to try placentophagy
use of placentophagy
mental health history, as measured by patients' self-reported responses to
The provider survey contained 39 multiple-choice questions.
The research team including Stephanie Schuette
and coauthors from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
(Chicago, IL), Brigham and Women's Hospital (Chestnut Hill, MA), and University
of Colorado School of Medicine (Denver, CO) report that though the awareness of
placentophagy among most providers and patients did exist, they are unsure of
its benefits or risks.
Women who reported having a history of a mental health complications showed more
willingness to consider placentophagy, instead of pharmacological approach.
Sociodemographic factors also played a role in deciding the
patients' familiarity with and attitudes toward placentophagy. Participants with higher
household income and a higher level of education showed a greater willingness
to try placentophagy.
Though many health care providers did not express much inclination
towards the practice, several were in favor of future research that could shed
light on the potential benefits and/or risks of placentophagy in humans.
"The results were intriguing for the remarkable differences
in perceptions based on multiple factors, such as provider types, income and
education levels of patients, and geographic location," says The
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
John Weeks, Seattle, WA.
First author Stephanie Schuette, Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine, states "As women are becoming increasingly aware of
placentophagy, it is important for future research to examine the safety and
efficacy of consuming placenta pills/tissue for postpartum benefits."
They added that further studies are
needed to examine the potential therapeutic efficacy and/or risks of
- Stephanie Schuette et al. Perspectives from Patients and Healthcare Providers on the Practice of Maternal Placentophagy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine ; (2017) doi:10.1089/acm.2016.0147.