September 7, 2007

Eating your placenta (placentophagy) cures postpartum depression??!?

Okay, I'm trying to type this post with a straight face. I know this topic has been out there for a long while ... I think I first heard about it a few years ago and repressed the memory of it. It's come back above ground recently through the media and still totally freaks me out. I find it amazing that a woman sued a hospital to get her placenta so she could eat it. And I just visited a discussion thread on mothering.com to see what other moms are saying about the suggestion that eating your placenta cures you of PPD. I'm still freaked out....

So there are women who actually roast their placentas in the oven shortly after they've given birth. They wait till it's dried out, carefully strip away the membranes (are you feeling sick yet?), chop it up into bite-size pieces, pound them into powder and pour the powder into empty capsules to "swallow without being able to taste it." There are other placenta recipes, such as dropping it into a blender with your favorite smoothie mix (don't forget to add extra strawberries to disguise the red color of the blood), or even mixing it with vegetable juice till it tastes like a bloody mary (no pun intended!).

I even came across a site that shows a woman holding her placenta and describing it as looking like a "boneless beef round steak." She does offer other options in lieu of the Silence of the Lambs routine, such as making a "placenta print as a keepsake," or to "use it to fertilize your garden."

I don't know, this is all just a bit too crunchy for me. I can't imagine a "cure" for PPD looking like this. The assertion is that the placenta is filled with hormones that helped sustain the pregnancy, and if the mother ingests it, she will replace the hormones she has lost and avoid suffering from PPD. One question I haven't yet seen addressed is: once a placenta is dried out, would the hormones even still be chemically active/viable?

But nevermind that -- is this the kind of PPD "cure" that women have hoped for? Are we really so desperate to accept something so unbelievably icky??

23 comments:

me said...

I hope this is not a cure, because it really does make me nauseous. It's amazing; as a Mom I have shared drinks with my kids, wiped their noses, caught their colds, not to mention changed seriously gross diapers when they were babies, but eating the placenta is what drives me over the edge? But still, there it is.

Now, if they found that mass quantities of chocolate and caffeine helped, I would be the first in line.

~Viv
http://coolmomsrule.blogspot.com

Kristin said...

I agree with you totally, Viv!!!

AMIMB said...

I stumbled across a link to your blog via another blog about PPD (forgot which one). I've heard of eating one's placenta and I remember my initial reaction. It's not something I'd ever want to do.

That said, I believe I would do almost anything - even eat dried, encapsulated placents - to stave off PPD in any future pregnancies. It wouldn't be my first choice of fixes, but I'd do it in a heartbeat if it meant I could have the past year back.

Kristin said...

Hi, Amimb!

Yes, I totally hear you. When I was pregnant my last time around and wanting desperately to avoid the hell I'd gone through previously, I would have done just about anything....
This placenta thing, though...well, besides being incredibly gross, my problem with it is that there's no way anyone can convince me that you're going to get something at all beneficial from eating a decomposing body part, (never mind that it's roasted or broiled or whatever). Not to mention one that contains the waste (urine, etc.) that was produced by the baby during the pregnancy.
Can't imagine being that desperate....

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

my midwife dehydrated, ground and encapsulated my placenta for me to ingest after my second baby's birth, so all i had to do was swallow the pills with water. totally do-able. :) i never had PPD with either of my kids, but i did feel it helped me recover more quickly from my birth the second time around.

Kristin said...

Hi, Crunchy Domestic Goddess! (Love the name!!)
I'm amazed at your bravery to eat a part of yourself and so glad that you didn't go through PPD. I just have to say, though, that I think the claims that eating a decomposing body part would have any semblance of a nutritional value are completely bogus. I feel that they're leading those of us who want a quick and easy fix to PPD completely astray. There is no magic pill we can take to avoid PPD. But it can be avoided by basic, common sense precautions and preparedness.

Warm regards,
Kristin

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... as one who is just starting to research this, I think that it can help. It makes sense that we should give our bodies back the nutrients that the placenta sucked out during pregnancy. Even if it is the placebo effect, there are many mothers who have noticed a difference in their pp mood after eating and not eating their placenta. My mom had severe PPD after my younger sister and I had some ppd and heavy anxiety after my first baby was born. I'm 6w pregnant now and you can bet your ass I'll be eating my placenta (encapsulated by someone else though... I don't wanna see the thing). It can't hurt. I firmly believe in medication for PPD (none of that Tom Cruise BS) but if I can avoid it by eating my placenta, I will.

Kristin said...

Hi, Anonymous!

I feel for you, having already experienced PPD and getting ready to have another baby. I've been there and it can be really scary when you think about what you've suffered through before and how badly you don't want to go through it again.

I promise you though, that there is no science-based, medical proof that eating your placenta does anything does anything but perhaps encourage cannibalism.... What about chowing down on your deep-fried breast, or chomping into your sauteed liver? Would you do it if someone told you it cured PPD?? How's that different from eating your placenta?

People can argue that there are nutrients that we can benefit from if we eat a part of our body, but I'm just not buying it. It's dumb.

I do wish you the best of luck with your pregnancy and birth, and especially your post partum. Don't lose faith -- hang in there. Just because you suffered from PPD before doesn't necessarily mean it will happen again. You've conquered the biggest part of it just by being informed.

Warm regards,
Kristin

Becky said...

I just happened upon your blog from a search engine. I think it makes sense that eating your placenta would help your body. However, I don't think I would cook it. I think it would lose nutrients that way. I think I want to just eat it raw.

arcamp83 said...

I disagree that there is no science/medical based proof that eating the placenta is beneficial. You should research it more thoroughly. Most placental mammals practice placentophagy and numerous studies have been done on the subject. Placentophagy is an instinctive reaction in these mammals and undoubtedly these intincts are there for a reason. We have yet to complete understand these instincts, that does not detract in any way from its benefits. Also you should refer to any product we ingest as "decomposing", even a lettuce leaf, unless it is viable parasite or bacterium, it is "decomposing".

Nicole D said...

I agree with arcamp, CDG, and Anon -

Kristin - I am sorry that you had ppd it is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy. It is a dark and jealous lover.

That said, there is good evidence to suggest that the placenta DOES help to reduce PPD when consumed. It contains prostaglandins, which help to reduce the placental site through involution of the uterus - causing less post-partum hemm.... which means less blood lost, which means less fatigue on mom as her body is recovering and less chances of hormonal upsets through blood loss/fatigue.

In addition, placentas have trace amounts of oxytocin, which eases postpartum stress and promotes lactation. And, thought the 'trace amounts' probably don't help MARKEDLY with pp stress, we know lactation helps produce prolactin - which DOES ease pp stress.

Finally, there is the 'magic pill' POEF - found ONLY in placenta and amniotic fluid. This wonderful 'drug' is an opioid made by your placenta and it reduces pain AS WELL AS stress and emotional volatility.

I would just encourage you to look a little more into it before discounting it and the people who know it works.

amara said...

Interesting discussion...
This is a topic I am very interested in. Nicole D I would love to know more about your references. I am currently working on a research paper and have had a hard time finding good references on the topic of placentophagy as it is officially termed. I find it interesting that almost every other mammal on the planet eat their placenta after giving birth, even the herbivores. Someone also pointed out to me that it is the only organ meat that does not reguire something or someone to give it's life to be used. it makes sense to me that the placenta would have many nutrients that wouod help balance and replenish the body after giving birth. I have heard of instances from licensed midwives where consuming part of the placenta (yes in a vegetable smoothie) has stopped a post partum hemmorhage when drugs would not. I feel for you mom's who have had to suffer from PPD. I recently had a miscarriage and had my first personal experience with depression. Not something I would want to repeat. A good study on placentophagy could help to open more doors to the treatment of ppd and other types of depression I think. I guess I need more schooling.

Anonymous said...

Arcamp83, a lot of animals eat their placenta as a way to not only get some nutrients but also to get rid of anything that may attract predators which may kill the babies.

Kristin said...

Well,.... do we really know for sure just why these animals are eating their placenta? Do they really see a piece of raw meat like that and think, ooh, I need some nutrients. I would think they're just hungry and it's there, so they eat it.

However, I am not an animal and would never be able to bring myself to eat a raw piece of human, whether placenta or not.

Granted, the placenta has been scientifically shown to contain amounts of oxytocin and other beneficial chemicals. However, once the placenta leaves the body, it is basically a dead chunk of human tissue.

Yuck.

jamesspratt said...

Worked for me:

http://jamesspratt.org/blog/2007/10/28/placentophagy/

And I'm the father.

Kristin said...

James, I just watched your video and all I can say is, WHY???????

Vanessa the Pittsburgh Doula said...

Well, as someone who had true CLINICAL PPD for nearly a year after my first birth, I was excited to consume my placenta with #2. I worked out the timing perfectly and had my loving husband blend it for me to drink raw.

I am sorry to say that not only didn't it work for me, but I had rejected low-dose HRT because of it and had to deal with the excrutiating physical and mental pain for several days before my family was able to help me.

This said, I believe it would work for someone who had mild baby blues where all that is at play is a normal adjustment... but for those of us who (for some reason) our bodies hit a wall and drop off sleeply and have history of depression and have CLINICAL PPD, I think it is misleading and could be dangerous to believe that a placenta can prevent it.

jia said...

The major thing that anybody can do without doing anything gross is to take fish oil capsules or eat a lot of fatty fish like salmon in the last few months of pregnancy and directly after. PPD is more of a nutritional imbalance than a hormonal imbalance.

Kristin said...

Hi, Jia,

That's interesting. I certainly agree that taking fish oil capsules is a LOT better than eating placenta... I'm just curious what you're basing that on. Is there a study out there that shows PPD to be more of a nutritional imbalance than a hormonal one?

Thanks for your comment!

Best,
Kristin

Kate said...

"But nevermind that -- is this the kind of PPD "cure" that women have hoped for? Are we really so desperate to accept something so unbelievably icky??"

UMMM... YES!!! You suffered from PPD girl, you know how debilitating it is. I would eat someone ELSES placenta not to go through it again, and I'll definitely be researching this more for my next baby. I took Zoloft and was able to have a pretty acute recovery with it but even still, eat a placenta smoothie... sure why not!

Kristin said...

LOL!! Kate, you're way braver than most. I still think that there are other, effective ways to combat PPD, and really don't buy the fact that you need to eat a part of your body to accomplish it. I was able to have a wonderful postpartum with my fourth baby even though I'd suffered so horribly from PPD with my third. For me, it was the empowerment of education and knowing what my options were while being proactive and taking the steps I needed to in order to avoid getting PPD again.

No, I don't think we have to resort to placenta smoothies..... ;)

Anonymous said...

I had dealt with PPD after my son, and now that we are thinking about having another child, I am absolutely open to the idea of consuming my placenta afterwards. Any woman who has gone through PPD knows how devastating it can be. I would personally try anything not to go through that again. And for those of you who have never been through PPD, you have no idea, and if you did, then you would probably be more open to the placenta idea too.

ruhama said...

I sure as hell would eat it. It's cells are not dead or decomposing immediately, it does not "contain" urine (the amniotic fluid does), and it's full of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial hormones. Why on earth would I throw something that valuable away??

Now, I don't think it's a CURE for PPD, but I do think it is a step in the right direction and that also including a diet high in food-based vitamins & minerals that help fight depression is the ideal.

It's not like eating other organs b/c it is being naturally disposed of by your body. I wouldn't eat my liver or kidney b/c my body doesn't eject those organs as a natural life process.