Arguably the most qualified person to speak about placentophagy is behavioral neuroscientist, Mark Kristal, who has been researching the subject for years. “Placenta contains a lot of protein, and some fat and carbs. In terms of chemicals and hormones, it contains a couple of hundred identified peptide hormones and substances, and also contains steroids,” Kristal said. Placenta is also known to contain iron and vitamin B-12.
The placenta functions much like the liver does. “The placenta can act as a filter, preventing toxic substances from getting to the fetus. These substances include heavy metals like cadmium, and toxins that are inhaled from polluted air and cigarette smoke. There can also be drugs, bacteria and viruses,” Kristal said. Not much is known about how any of the nutrients or toxins may affect the mother.
Do as animals do
Speculations for the practice in the animal world run the gamut of fulfilling nutritional needs to doing it as a safety measure to ensure that other animals, namely predators, aren’t attracted by the smell of afterbirth. The true reason is unknown and, since animals also eat their own fecal matter, I am not sure “do as dogs do” will work in this case. In addition, we are humans and births are celebrated, not hidden. Not to mention, we have access to vitamins, minerals and hamburgers. However, animal behavior may provide more information than simply what has been speculated.
In his recent study to be published in a few weeks, Kristal notes that animals don’t have the reasoning ability to determine that eating the placenta will protect them from predators likely eliminating that theory all together. What has been observed is that animals fiercely protect the placenta even more so than their offspring making it nearly impossible to determine what would happen if the animal didn’t eat it.
Critics of the practice have suggested that animals are likely ravenously hungry after birth and eat the placenta due to its close proximity and their overwhelming urge to satiate their hunger. However, Kristal notes that animals like rats and giraffes eat normally in the 24-hour period before delivery. In addition, animals reject other meats presented to them after delivery, suggesting that they aren’t simply starving and willing to eat what is available.
Nearly all mothers will experience some form of mood change after birth. As the body adjusts to its post-baby state, hormones run amuck. The majority of women feel tired, perhaps a little stressed, but, for some, the mood changes can be severe. Some believe that consuming the nutrient-rich placenta will help balance out those crazed hormones and safely ease the body back into life without a baby in its uterus.
This theory is exactly the reason that Amber Korn, mother of five, decided to consume her placenta with her youngest child. “At 42 years old, I did not have any concerns over childbirth or our baby, but I adopted an extreme self-care philosophy for my recovery since I would not only have a newborn to care for, but also a 20 month old,” Korn said. She didn’t consume the placenta with her previous four children and experienced fatigue, anxiety and weepiness postpartum, all of which she was trying to avoid after her youngest child was born. “I hoped to be energetic and a little more together emotionally not only for myself but for my babies,” Korn said.
“I had a very large placenta, which I consumed over the course of six weeks,” Korn said. She noticed several benefits beyond just the elevated mood she was hoping for. “The benefits were more energy than I have ever experienced after birth, reduced bleeding, no weepiness at three days, my milk came in without engorgement or nipple soreness like it had with every other baby and after a few months my hair would begin to thin with each baby -- I have not had any after baby hair loss,” Korn said.
Keep reading...up next you'll find out just how you can eat your placenta!