New mothers eating their own placenta might sound strange at first, but many women say it helps them recover mentally and physically after giving birth, and helps prevent postpartum depression.
The medical community isn’t quite sold on what the placenta can and cannot do for mothers.
“(Eating the placenta) helps with energy, mood balance, hormones and helps with milk production,” Lauren Agro said.
“Just because it’s natural, it’s not naturally safe. Cocaine is natural, but not the best thing to ingest,” said Dr. Eesha Bhattacharyya, an obstetrician at Ko'olau Women's Healthcare in Kailua.
Candace Whiting, a mother, said the placenta made a difference for her. Like many new mothers, she didn’t even think about keeping her placenta after giving birth for the first time, and motherhood wasn’t easy, she said.
“I felt foggy and didn’t want him to touch me,” Whiting said.
She said she felt weepy and fatigued spending time with her son. When she gave birth the second time, she did some research and took a chance by taking pills made of her own placenta.
“The first weeks, I could bond, not worrying about anxiety. I didn’t have any of that this time around,” Whiting said.
During pregnancy, the placenta acts as the fetus' kidney and respiratory tract among many other functions. It delivers nutrients, oxygen, and fluid from the mother to baby, and removes all the waste from the baby's blood. ''
Jennifer Voltrain is also a new mom, who takes the encapsulated placenta every day.
A typical preparation involves steaming and then dehydrating the placenta. It's then encapsulated, which yields usually anywhere between 80 to 160 pills and lasts about a month or two after birth.
“It was something to look forward to every morning instead of caffeine,” Voltrain said. “I felt it gave me a boost and knocked off the edge of exhaustion.”
The jury is still out on whether humans can benefit by eating placenta.
“I think until more research is done, it’s difficult to say whether it’s something we should use or not,” Bhattacharyya said.
“It’s such a wacky idea, but when you are reading, you realize we’re the only animals not doing it,” Voltrain said. “It’s a normal, natural thing to do.”
It costs around $200 to $250 to prepare and encapsulate the placenta.
The Food and Drug Administration said the risk of bacterial infection is significant and to avoid dietary supplements and other food products containing human placenta.