Placentaphagy – yes, I ate my placenta and this is why

Placentaphagy – the act of eating one’s own placenta (or their baby’s placenta depending on who you assign ownership to) has been in the news lately after Colleen Rooney tweeted a picture of the capsules made from her son Kit’s placenta. Eating a placenta is something that many people would consider to be quite revolting, so why would you do it? Here are some of the reasons why I chose to consume my baby’s placenta after giving birth:

 

A drawing of a placenta. "Placentaphagy - yes, I ate my placenta and this is why"

1) Curiosity

I’ll hold my hands up – this was the main reason I did it. I knew it wasn’t unsafe to eat and I was curious to know what it might taste like. I quite enjoy steak tartare and order my steak blue so the prospect of eating raw placenta wasn’t particularly off-putting. I’d been an independent midwife before I had children and had encountered a couple of women who had consumed their placenta raw in a smoothie. I decided to do the same (the recipe is at the end of this post if anyone is interested!). I have to admit, it tasted pretty much like a normal smoothie. It was a bit thicker perhaps but I really couldn’t taste the placenta at all.

 

2)To help prevent postnatal depression

Placenta contains high levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which is known to reduce stress. The scientific evidence for placentaphagy reducing the risk of postnatal depression is inconclusive. However three-quarters of women interviewed in one study did report improved mood after eating their placenta.

 

In my case, eating my placenta didn’t stop me getting postnatal depression though.

 

3) Nutritional benefits

There is some thought that eating the placenta helps to replenish nutrients lost during childbirth. Again, there is very little evidence to support this. Whilst I was less tired after Sophie’s birth than I was after Jessica’s (when I didn’t eat my placenta) there were other factors that would have affected this. I rested in bed for a week after Sophie’s birth instead of spending hours by the side of an intensive care cot. I also didn’t have the worry and stress of having a baby critically ill in intensive care having had open-heart surgery second time around.

 

4) Improved lactation

Some women have reported increased lactation after eating their placenta. My milk supply was better second time around. However, there were so many other differences that it’s almost impossible to say whether eating my placenta had any impact on this.

 

 

Whilst placentaphagy is rare in humans, it is very common amongst non-human primates and other mammals. There is evidence of the benefits of placetaphagy in animals, such as increased interaction between mother and baby; analgesic effects; opiod effects which facilitate care-taking behaviour and a suppression of pseudopregnancy (fake pregnancy) in the postnatal period. Whether any of these benefits also apply to human mothers eating their placentas is unknown.

 

If you are interested in consuming your own placenta, there are a few ways you can do it:

 

  • Raw – as I did, on its own or in a smoothie.
  • Cooked – I knew someone who ate hers in a lasagne. Cooking is likely to destroy any enzymes or substances that may potentially be beneficial though.
  • Encapsulation – the most common way for mothers to eat their placenta. The placenta is steamed and then dehydrated, ground into a powder and made into capsules.

 

 

The Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network website has more information about how to store placenta for encapsulation plus more information on ways to eat placenta. If you are planning to eat your placenta raw, it should be eaten sooner rather than later as it can only be kept in the fridge for 3 days. I had originally intended to eat my placenta after Jessica’s birth. However, as we ended up spending four weeks in hospital, there was no opportunity to do so. I did have a lovely friend though who kindly stored the placenta in her freezer though. We took it home and buried it in the garden instead (which we also did with what was left from Sophie’s). We bought the girls a namesake rose each which was then planted over their placentas.

 

If you are tempted to try a placenta smoothie, here is the recipe that I used:

 

Placenta Smoothie

  • One placenta with vessels and membranes removed
  • Two bananas
  • Packet of chocolate buttons
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 1-2 tsp of honey
  • Punnet of mixed fruit – blueberries are great to disguise the placenta colour
  • Milk – enough to achieve the right smoothie consistency

Place all in a blender and whizz up!

27 thoughts on “Placentaphagy – yes, I ate my placenta and this is why

  1. So did I, for similar reasons. I was also shaken by postnatal depression though, so am unsure if I would fork out the high monies to do it again. We ended up burying the last 3 capsules under our lemon tree – one for dad, mum and X. Thanks for sharing! #coolmumclub

    1. Sorry to hear that you also struggled with postnatal depression. I never looked into the cost of placenta encapsulation as it wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing although I can see why people choose to do it as a more palatable way of eating placenta. I like the idea of burying the last few capsules if you didn’t use them.

    1. Thank you Kiran – seeing it in the news got me thinking about it again so I’d thought I’d share. Glad you found it interesting.

    1. Thank you Emma – there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the benefits but I have heard stories from others who feel that it did make a difference for them.

  2. WOW this is amazing. We had discussed the idea of eating or preserving the placenta at my hypnotherapy classes but I just couldn’t get my head around it so it’s so interesting to hear straight from the mouth of someone who did it! Thanks so much for linking this up to #coolmumclub lovely x

    Talya – http://www.motherhoodtherealdeal.com

    1. Thank you Talya – interesting to hear that it was discussed at your hypnotherapy classes – I wonder if anyone decided to do it as a result?

  3. My initial reaction when seeing the post title was eww no but after reading more and the benefits behind it i can see why some people would. I couldnt see me eating it raw or cooked or in a smoothie capsules i could handle. Interesting post!

    1. I can completely understand why most people would go “eww, no” but then perhaps might consider it if they thought it might be beneficial. Capsules are definitely a more palatable way of consuming placenta though. Glad you found the post interesting and thank you for your comment.

  4. I know you won’t let this comment on your blog though have already said my thoughts on mumsnet. Why the hell do you subscribe to cannibalism. Just as much nutrition can be gained from normal foods without having to eat parts of ourselves so that argument is just silly IMHO

    1. I hadn’t actually thought of it as cannibalism although I can completely see why it might be perceived in that way. I wouldn’t say I subscribe to cannibalism per se though – eating human flesh isn’t something I do on a regular basis. To be honest though, even if placentaphagy is cannibalism, it doesn’t harm anyone else, or the planet so I don’t see why it should be an issue. You might find it revolting and that’s an opinion you are perfectly entitled to. With regards to the nutritional aspect, I agree with you that it’s unnecessary from that perspective – as I have said in my post, my main reason for doing so was curiosity, pure and simple.

  5. Amazing. I’m not so great with blood and gore so if the idea didn’t make me heave I’d be quite up for it? I am curious to know, did the hospital just let you take it home in a bag? I did ask to have a good old look at mine with dangermouse – amazing stuff those placentas! Didn’t look too appetising, but hey, if it’s good enough for the Rooneys?! xx #coolmumclub Thanks for linking!

    1. Placentas are quite amazing with all that they do during pregnancy. I had a home birth so there was no issue with having to take the placenta home in this case, although when I took it home after Jessica’s birth it was put in a sterile container and I took it home in that.

  6. I have read about people doing this but never someone I knew personally (or through the internet lol). I’m not sure if I could do it or not, but hats off to you for giving it a go! I have to say that’s the weirdest recipe I’ve ever read lol 🙂
    Debbie

  7. I have to say Louise I couldn’t imagine blending up my raw placenta and eating it. But it had now made me very curious. There does sound like some really good benefits and I can see why people do! xx

    1. Most people I’ve known who did it have mostly done it to try to reduce their chances of having postnatal depression and it was probably the main reason (after curiosity) that I did too. Sadly it didn’t work so well for me with that though but I know some people thought it worked well for them.

  8. Ovine placenta is very commonly used as a nutritional supplement or as an ingredient in topical beauty products, and I don’t see why it should be acceptable to consume sheep placenta but not our own… I think it’s reasonably common to bury the placenta here in NZ, that probably wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. I’ve never heard of anyone eating their placenta though, I’d personally be too squeamish but I haven’t really got a problem with other people doing it. Interesting to read your thoughts on it Louise 🙂

    1. I never realised that ovine placenta was used as a nutritional supplement before – learned something new there, thank you! 🙂

  9. I’d been curious about encapsulating next time (couldn’t do a smoothie though, ugh, kudos to you for that!) when I heard it could prevent PND but I’ve been reading lots of studies lately which say there is no evidence yet so I gave up on the idea. Never really thought about the other benefits though. I’m sorry you still struggled with PND (it’s so awful). Thanks for the thought-provoking post x #coolmumclub

    1. Thank you – trying to prevent PND was one of the main reasons I tried it (after curiosity) as I did know other people who felt that it had helped them. It was worth a try even if it didn’t help me with that in the end – thankfully I’m now at the point where the good days easily outweigh the difficult ones though.

  10. If I ever have another child, I will definitely be eating my placenta. Not sure how yet, but I’m leaning more towards the encapsulation. Great post! #coolmumclub

  11. It’s my first time, I have read on many site about the encapsulation, Thankyou for sharing ..I too have decided to do the placenta encapsulation, I have also read – “after you deliver your baby, you also need to deliver the placenta (called stage three of childbirth). You’ll continue to have contractions, and your practitioner may speed along the placenta delivery by pulling gently on the umbilical cord or massaging your uterus. Whether you keep the placenta as a memento, eat it, or let your practitioner take it away is up to you Is this true…. ?? First time mommy

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