Consuming your placenta - must do or taboo?

With claims that it provides an array of essential nutrients, anti-aging collagen, improves milk production and wards off post-natal depression, there’s a lot of plus factors to eating your placenta.

 

Some new mums drink it in a smoothie, others pop it in pill or tincture form – either way placenta consumption or placentophagy as it is known, is becoming a prized commodity.

Most commonly made known by celebrities such as Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, January Jones and Alicia Silverstone, it’s now the norm to hear about placentophagy through a friend or sibling.

As a mum of six, I struggled with postnatal depression after my first four births. A close friend had taken her placenta in capsule form after the birth of her baby and was evangelical about it. I felt it was worth a try,” says Kelly Thomas-Arnold, now founder of KTA Placenta Consultancy, a UK business launched in 2015 with an encapsulation service that starts from £165.

Similarly Danielle Kinney, founder of Placenta Plus, turned to placentophagy after also experiencing postnatal depression.

Placenta encapsulation wasn’t about me wanting to be like the Kardashians, it was about me taking control. Once I tried the pills, I knew this process had to be an option for women. I felt amazing and had no PND.”

Placenta Plus now counts Coleen Rooney as a client, who waxed lyrical about the process on Twitter after encapsulating her placenta on the birth of her third child, Kit.

Placenta decoded

To a mother, the placenta is the third stage of birth that most would rather do without but to an unborn child, it’s their lifeline.

In short, the placenta is an organ attached to the lining of the womb that produces hormones to help the baby develop and protect it against infection. It is also linked to the umbilical cord, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the baby and discards of waste, such as carbon dioxide, which passes from the baby back along the umbilical cord and into the mother’s bloodstream to dispose of.

Towards the end of pregnancy, the placenta passes antibodies from the mother to the baby, giving them immunity for about three months after birth. However, it only passes on antibodies that they already have.

Placentophagy is about taking all the goodness back that has been pumped into the unborn for all those months in the womb. In fact, most mammals practice it. Scientists believe this is to remove any evidence of the birth, keeping potential predators at bay, while others say that by eating their placenta it helps the animal bond with their young.

Many cultures too, such as the Chinese, have long believed dried placenta to be restorative and used it in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since the 1500s.

Why consume?

Having your placenta encapsulated is said to balance your hormones, replenish depleted iron levels, assist the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy state, reduce post-natal bleeding, and increase milk production and energy levels. With up to 80% of women experiencing the baby blues within the first week of birth, women who consume their placenta also report fewer emotional issues and a happier babymoon.

How does it work?

Once you book the service with a company, most will send out a placenta preservation kit. KTA Placenta Consultancy includes a container, ice packs and laminated instructions for the midwives in theirs.

We then ask our clients to let us know when their labour has started or when their C-section is scheduled and we place a member of our team on standby,” says Kelly. “Once the baby is born and placenta is ready for collection, we dispatch one of our couriers to pick it up ASAP.”

The placenta is then brought back to the laboratory where it is inspected to ensure it is healthy and suitable for consumption.

It is thoroughly rinsed to remove as much of the blood as possible, gently steamed to destroy any bacteria without compromising the quality, dehydrated overnight and the next day ground into a fine powder and placed into capsules for daily consumption.”

The intention is to get the tablets back to mums before any baby blues kick in.

The average placenta will produce between 130-150 capsules and the suggested dose is one capsule, three times per day for the first four to six weeks, gradually reducing after this time.

What the experts say?

While the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have classified placenta as a “novel food“, there’s overwhelming evidence from women who swear by the post-natal recovery benefits – and as they grow in numbers, it’s increasingly hard to ignore.

I can’t recommend it highly enough,” says Beth Harrison, a client of Placenta Plus. “I had so much energy and was still using the pills 16 weeks later.”

Indeed, novel it is. Pregnancy is the only time in a woman’s life when their body will grow an organ, which is referred to by many as the tree of life or the forgotten chakra.

We appreciate that everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” says Kelly. “However the fact that the placenta is rich in iron, B-vitamins, oxytocin and clotting factors, amongst many other things – the benefits speak for themselves.”