Today my colleague at work asked me if I am going to eat my placenta, and if so, would I eat it raw or have it made into pills. As my jaw proceeded to drop and dribble extricated itself from my mouth, I managed to splutter an adamant “No!” So, here’s the deal: placentophagy is on the rise and is not only limited to weirdo actors and their scientologist friends.
Naturally, I was curious as to why a person would consider eating the bloody membranous afterbirth that is expelled from a woman’s body after her baby has been born. Recent research (based on experiments conducted on rats … nice) shows that the placenta and amniotic fluid of a woman contains a molecule (POEF, Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor) that modifies the activity of endogenous opioids in a way that produces an enhancement of the natural reduction in pain that occurs shortly after and during delivery. Some doctors, therefore, prescribe placenta consumption as medicine to help stem bleeding after birth and to help the uterus clean itself out. The placenta is rich in nutrients (iron and protein) that will help the mother heal after childbirth, and is also known to be a great source of vitamins and minerals, which are thought to help fight postpartum depression – vitamin B6 is great for this. Other benefits of placentophagy include an increase in energy levels, increased production of breast milk and a decrease in the likelihood of iron deficiency and thus insomnia or sleep disorders. One has to wonder why boiled, canned or pilled placenta is not readily available in local pharmacies?
Although some placenta on the cob may be a great solution to a variety of ailments, there are some ethical complications. Placentophagy is practised in the animal world, driven by the instinct of an animal to hide its young from predators. Most human beings do not have this instinct, although with baby stealers lurking around every corner it might not be a bad idea to ingest one’s placenta and amniotic fluid as a protective mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »