Placentas are amazing either way. Whether you decide to bin it, broil it, roast it, encapsulate it or make it into a keepsake for the mantelpiece. As a disclaimer, I did the first!
I don’t really remember having the conversation when I had Boybug. With Girlbug I remember the midwife holding up a pulsating mass and asking if I wanted to keep it. I’m almost certainly paraphrasing here, my memory is hazy, but “I never want to see that again” was my general approach.
Needless to say we didn’t take a photo of the placenta either, so here’s a photo of the baby instead! I don’t usually share full-face photos of the kids, but all babies look the same, right?
Should we be eating placentas?
While I didn’t want to keep the placenta, I was still in awe of its amazing, life-giving properties. While reading a commentary on placenta research (as you do) one line struck me:
“I can’t say that there is any scientific evidence that this is harmful, but there is certainly no evidence that it is beneficial either.”
Now, I may have wanted my placenta out of my sight post-haste, but I was under the impression that there was some benefit to consuming them, if you could be bothered/were less squeamish about these things. I had assumed they would be a good source of iron, for one. So I thought I would look a bit further.
Well, there’s very little written about it in the scientific literature. It took me a while to find anything at all actually. Once Pubmed had failed me, I stumbled upon this company who turn placentas into capsules, tinctures and salve. They have a page of research studies. The first is not a peer-reviewed journal, it’s a book chapter on chinese medicine, the second and third are from 1918, the fourth is from a homeopathy book chapter. None of these are reasons to dismiss them outright, but neither do they lend much scientific credibility. It also means none of these studies (or opinions as they may be) are available for me to see.
The next thing I found was a review in Archives of Women’s Mental Health from 2015. Annoyingly it’s not open-access (does anyone want to pay for me to do this so I can justify buying some of these articles?). However, the author has done a press-release that details much of her findings. The findings were…drum roll…that there’s basically no science. There’s one study in humans which showed an increase in milk production after consuming freeze-dried placenta, but it was vague: there was no control group or measure of how much more milk was being produced. They also found similar effects if they gave women freeze-dried beef, but bizarrely this group wasn’t used as a control group.
The researcher did say that there are some mice studies which show some pain reducing properties, but only if the whole placenta is eaten raw (heating above 35C removed all benefit!), immediately after birth. Looking at the size of mine, that would put Man vs. Food to shame!!
Their final conclusion? That there is:
“no data to support the common claims that eating the placenta either raw, cooked, or encapsulated offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding, or replenishes iron in the body. The researchers also noted that there have been no studies conducted on whether eating the placenta has any potential risks.”
Interesting. Obviously lack of research doesn’t mean there’s no benefit, just that we can’t be sure whether there is or not, or whether there’s any harm.
Or you could donate it to medical research
If you’re giving birth in the right hospitals you could always donate your placenta to medical research. Worth considering, I think. As the only temporary organ a human (well, us female ones) can grow it has a unique place in medical research. Be it understanding the creation of blood vessels in a tumour, the blood flow to the heart or the rejection of organ transplants, your placenta could help.
It’s an amazing organ
The fact that that buldging mass can sustain life in the confines of a womb is amazing. But more recently, it has been discovered that the placenta might actually play a role in your health for the rest of your life.
Whatever you do with yours, treat it well while it’s inside of you and have at least a quick glimps and appreciation for it when it’s on the outside.