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Eating Placenta Does Nothing For Mother's Health, Say Studies

Jun 07, 2015 10:36 PM EDT

Many celebrities and self-described health experts agree that eating the placenta after giving birth is extremely healthy for a new mother. Unfortunately for them, scientists are saying that not only is that complete malarkey, but placental consumption could pose dangers that have gone unconsidered.

"Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy (eating placenta), who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants," Cythya Coyle, a researcher for Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a recent statement.

She recently worked alongside Dr. Crystal Clark to investigate the so-called benefits of eating one's own afterbirth. The results were published in the latest issue of Archives in Women's Mental Health.

A psychiatrist specializing in reproduction-related mood disorders, Clark originally became interested in how popular placentophagy was getting after she heard claims that 'reabsorbing' the vitamins in afterbirth offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, and even enhances maternal bonding.

"The popularity [of placentophagy] has spiked in the last few years... I was surprised that it was more widespread than I anticipated," she said.

However, Clark added that she suspected that "people aren't making this decision based on science or talking with physicians. Some women are making this based on media reports, blogs and websites."

The researchers say that some of the blame can be placed on celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, who have raved in the past about the benefits of eating their own discarded placenta after giving birth. However, their work aims not to point fingers, but rather to correct misconceptions.

According to their paper, Coyle and Clark reviewed 10 prominent and frequently cited research studies on placentophagy. Between all of them, it was made clear that there is no compelling data that could support popular claims.

What's more, the researchers argue that because eating a placenta has little-to-no benefit, partaking in the trend is overly risky.

"There are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, and the dosing is inconsistent," Coyle explained. "Women really don't know what they are ingesting," and that - understandably - is cause for worry.

Now, the researching pair and their colleagues hope to learn more about public opinion and belief concerning placentophagy, noting that it would be good for doctors to be made aware of how popular this unusual trend has become.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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