Placenta eating, or Placentophagy is the act of ingesting one’s own placenta sac ( which is the organ that develops in pregnancy providing oxygen and nutrients to the baby) after childbirth. This has become a trend in the natural birthing communities and alternative medicine world and has become more mainstream in recent years due to celebrity advocates such as January Jones, Holly Madison, and Alicia Silverstone. But it really blew up in popular culture when Kourtney Kardashian posted an Instagram tribute to the practice with pictures of her own placenta pills.
The most common method of consumption is to have your doctor or midwife sanitarily save the placenta after birth. It is then sent to a placenta encapsulation company who then steams dries and grinds the placenta into a fine powder which is put into neat little capsules that are taken several times a day. One placenta usually yields some 100-200 capsules. Of course, if you really want to get raw and primal about it, there are recipes for mixing your placenta in a frothy smoothie in the blender, baking it into a cheesy lasagna or simmering it into a savory chili.
Advocates swear by the benefits which including alleviating post partum depression, boosting the milk supply and restoring iron levels as well as decreasing fatigue.Alicia Silverstone famously called them her “happy pills” for their mood boosting properties.
Critics, however, point out that there is little scientific evidence to back up the health claims and even warn against the potential dangers citing a case in 2017 reported to the US Disease control of an infection due to a bacterial laced placenta capsule.
Either way, this practice of humans ingesting their own placenta is a relatively new one,despite the fact that most non-human mammals eat their placentas after giving birth. Although placenta ingestion can be found in traditional chinese medicine, it was used for treatment of liver and kidney problems and not for post partum mothers.
The practice of placentophagy began in the US in the 1960’s and 1970’s during the revival of midwife assisted home births where women began taking back a more empowered model of birth in reaction to the days of ether sedation and male doctor dominated births of the 1940’s and ‘50’s.
The modern trend does tend to be amongst women who are mostly white, married and educated. Celebrity endorsed or not, it will be interesting to see if this trend stands the test of time, and if scientific data proves it’s worthiness. In the meantime, feel free to research and even Pinterest your own favorite placenta filled goodies.