Eating placenta may have caught up as a latest celebrity trend. Earlier this year, 35-year-old reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian shared a photo of two large pills on Instagram captioning it, "Yummy…PLACENTA pills! No joke…I will be sad when my placenta pills run out. They are life changing! #benefits #lookitup."
Previously, Hollywood moms like Mad Men actor January Jones and former Playboy model Holly Madison also ingested their own placentas. It turns out that not only does it not have any health benefits, but it also poses unknown risks.
A new Northwestern Medicine review of 10 current published research studies on placentophagy did not turn up any human or animal 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.
What's more concerning is that, there are no studies examining the risk of ingesting the placenta. Study author Dr Crystal Clark said that there hasn't been any systematic research investigating the benefits or the risk of placenta ingestion. The studies on mice aren't translatable into human benefits.
Placentophagy lead author Cynthia Coyle added that research was needed to provide the answers.
Although almost all non-human placental mammals ingest their placenta after giving birth, the first documented accounts of postpartum women practicing placentophagy were in North America in the 1970s, the study reports. In recent years, advocates and the media have popularised health benefits of the practice, and more women are considering it as an option for postpartum recovery.
Clark said that the popularity had spiked in the last few years. They think that people weren't making this decision based on science or talking with physicians, but were taking inspiration from media reports, blogs and websites.
The study is due to be published in Archives of Women's Mental Health.