As influential celebrities like Kim Kardashian and January Jones have done it just like other mammal species, it has become popular for new mothers to eat their placentas after giving birth. Businesses have even capitalized on the trend by offering freeze-dried placenta pills to the market.
The argument: swallowing the placenta will boost a new mother’s recovery and help prevent postpartum depression through its nutrients.
A group of doctors and health officials detailed in the report how placenta capsules seemed to have caused the infant’s illness.
After a course of antibiotics, the baby was hospitalized again and tested positive for strep infection the second time. In their search for the reason behind the dangerous bacterial infection, doctors stumbled on the fact that the mother took daily dried placenta capsules.
The capsules were tested and were eventually found to be strep-positive.
The report argued that the pills likely enhanced the strep bacteria present in the mother’s intestines and skin, from which the infant contracted the bacteria.
The researchers pointed out a similar risk where placental tissue may harbor different types of bacteria and pose risks as consumed raw. Even cooked, dried, or preserved placenta, though, may also transmit infection.
When Placenta Pills Are All The Rage
Different companies offer basic placenta capsules, placenta smoothies, chocolate placenta truffles, and even placental encapsulation. Kardashian, Jones, and Alicia Silverstone are just a few from Hollywood who consumed pills containing their own dried placenta after they gave birth, Stat News wrote.
The practice really helped, according to Silverstone, who wrote in her book that she was “really sad when [the placenta pills] were gone.”
A spokesperson with the CDC said the agency has not taken a formal position on placenta pills yet and that the warning against them were the report authors’ own conclusion. But University of Nevada, Las Vegas researcher Sharon Young deemed it the strongest statement against the practice to date.
"I've heard physicians say there's no benefit to doing it, that it's pointless,” she said in an ABC News report. “But I can't remember a statement so strongly advising against it, from a physician or anyone.”
The placenta grows in the uterus during a woman’s pregnancy, providing oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Most mammal moms, except for humans and camels, consume it after giving birth.
In ancient Chinese medicine, ground placenta was a form of treatment, but it only occurred as part of a natural birth movement in the late 1960s to 1970s.
Health law professor Timothy Caulfield, saying that placental consumption is a problematic health phenomenon lacking evidence, advises looking for trusted scientific sources before doing anything for one’s health.
“You don’t want sources that hype a single study, you don’t want to take advice from a celebrity, you don’t want to use anecdotes and narratives as evidence,” he said.