Ingesting the Placenta: Is it Healthy for New Moms?

Placentophagy, the practice of ingesting your placenta after giving birth, is certainly not standard practice, but some are staunch believers.

They believe eating the placenta, either in capsulated or cooked form, can balance out hormonal fluctuations that play a role in postpartum depression.

Many refer to the fact that most mammals consume their placentas after giving birth as proof that the practice is normal and natural.  It has also been a part of Traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

Jodi Selander of Las Vegas, who offers a free encapsulation service, says, "We are the only mammal on Earth that went away from this practice."

But the practice is met with great skepticism by more traditional medical experts, and it has been brought to the attention of the FDA, who is now looking into the claims made on Selander‘s website. 

Mark Kristal, a professor at State University of New York at Buffalo, wrote a 1971 dissertation on why animals eat their own placenta.  According to Kristal, there‘s "no research to substantiate claims of human benefit."  He points out that the cooking process will destroy proteins and hormones, and that drying out, or freezing the placenta, will destroy other ingredients.

USA Today July 18, 2007

Choosing to ingest your placenta after childbirth is a highly unusual choice for a new mom, and one that I've never heard of before.  Fortunately, there are many steps you can take which will help ensure that both you, and your new baby are healthy.

The primary one is breastfeeding. This truly natural way of feeding your baby will:

  • Reduce your baby’s risk of heart disease, asthma, allergies and cancer
  • Lower your baby’s risk of being obese as an adult
  • Help mom to return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster
  • Reduce mom’s risk of cancer
  • Promote bonding between mom and baby

As for mom’s health after childbirth, if you are experiencing postpartum depression (a condition that affects more than 10 percent of new moms), you should make sure you are getting plenty of natural sun exposure.  This is a completely natural way to beat the blues.

If you don’t have access to sunlight (such as during the winter), you can get many of the same benefits by using full-spectrum lighting.

Equally, if not more important for new moms (including those who are depressed), is to take a high-quality (purified) omega-3 supplement like krill oil. The benefits of omega-3 for you and your new baby are endless.  In fact, you should really start taking omega-3 before you even become pregnant, and continue it long after childbirth.

Another simple option for moms facing depression?  Start an exercise program; it's clearly the "ultimate drug" for treating depression.

If you are looking for a more natural childbirth, you may want to consider a midwife or doula, who will likely be more open-minded and well-versed in how to keep your baby’s birth a natural, healthy experience instead of a high-tech, medicated one.  

Finally, you may also want to consider having your baby at home.  Home birth has increased in popularity over the years, and has statistically proven to be an incredibly safe option.  There is a low risk of "complications" from delivery for baby or mother, and a much lower risk of infection.  My youngest sister had her son at home, with a doctor who still does house calls, and the birth experience was tremendously positive.

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