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Eating your placenta – is it healthy?

The desire for mothers to eat their placenta after they have given birth is increasing, with more and more instructions and cooking recipes being shared online.

The placenta is a waste product of childbirth which is believed to contain high levels of nutrients and hormones that are beneficial to the mother. It can be eaten in a number of ways: raw, cooked, roasted or even in a smoothie! The Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network also provide the placenta in a capsule form for those mothers who may not enjoy eating one of their organs.

The placenta is known as a superfood which is said to improve milk production in breast feeding mothers, promote a faster recovery after childbirth, provide mothers with bursts of energy and prevent the development of postnatal depression. However, scientific evidence to support this is lacking.

Scientists have warned that the placenta may not be as beneficial as previously thought; the nutrients maintained in the placenta are not in high enough concentrations to be of any health benefit to the mother [1]. Also, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have cautioned that the intake of placenta capsules should be avoided as the mother may ingest harmful pathogens which could then be passed onto the child. This warning was raised after a newborn baby was admitted to hospital and was later diagnosed with group B Streptococcus Agalactiae (GBS). The same disease was also found in the placenta pills the mother had been taking.

Although, whilst in the womb, the placenta provides the baby with all the nutrients for its healthy development and growth, it also filters out any pathogens and bacteria that may be harmful to the baby . Scientists worry that ingesting the placenta after birth may allow the spread of such diseases to the baby and to others.

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002937817309638