Okay, here’s the sitch.
Placentophagy is when a mammal consumes the placenta from its offspring. Most animals do it with a few exceptions like camels, but camels are assholes so we all know that doesn’t count.
It was first thought that animals did this to remove any trace of birth to ward off predators but nutritional value seems to be the thinking now. Generally speaking, we’re a well fed bunch so it’s unlikely we’d need to eat this because there’s no peanut butter around. They have also studied the reaction of animals if the placenta was with held after birth and the animals weren’t too miffed about it and didn’t reject their young.
That said, placenta consumption has been going on for centuries as there are thought to be a plethora of benefits such as future fertility, speeding up labor, reducing fertility in men, more energy, quicker recovery, increased milk production, pain relief and preventing post partum depression.
Proponents of placentophagy believe that it helps offset the sharp decrease in hormones after birth because it has a whole host of hormones, vitamins and minerals in it, and it’s rich in both iron and protein.
While many women claim to have benefited from eating their placenta, the biggest concern is that placenta capsule suppliers are making medical claims that have not been scientifically proven. There’s also not a lot of research supporting the preservation of all that placenta-goodness once you cook it, grind it up, and pop it in a pill, or if there’s even any benefit from eating it crouched in a corner hissing, for that matter.
There are no inherent dangers from ingesting your placenta whether you cook it, encapsulate it or eat it like a giant oyster with horseradish but it should be handled and treated like any other meat (that sounds kind of gross but it is what it is).
Hospitals treat the placenta as human waste and consider it a biohazard because it is full of blood. Because of this, you may have to kick up a stink to get your placenta if you give birth in a hospital. In 2007 a Las Vegas court sided with a mother who sued her hospital for the right to have her placenta after an emergency Caesarean section – “I’ll take that to go, thank you very much.”
As for cost, you can do it yourself for about $75 but I didn’t feel like making toast after giving birth, let alone encapsulating my placenta, so I don’t know if you’ll feel up to it. To have it shipped off and done for you, lands somewhere around the $200 mark so it isn’t cheap but it isn’t outrageous either. They send them back in tidy, little capsules and you take them over the next few months.
I have to admit, when I first heard about this I thought it sounded freaky and something that only rich hippies would do, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw the logic in it. It’s like one of those informercials that I think, “Oh, that is just useless” at the beginning of the ad, then I’m all, “We need 10 of those” by the end.
The placenta has a lot of good stuff in it, animals do it all the time and you don’t see deers getting all weepy and telling their husbands they suck because they bought the wrong mustard and it certainly doesn’t do any harm. Even if it is just a placebo effect, then who cares because you feel good and that’s all that matters, right?
The down side is that it isn’t cheap unless you’re just going to eat it like a steak (pass the A1) and you’re probably going to get mocked for doing it, but I wouldn’t let that one worry you because those people are always going to find something to bitch about no matter what you do. If they see you taking a pill just tell them it’s acid.
They do sell encapsulated animal placenta (hey, if we’re here let’s jump right in) but it’s hard to say if that further steps away from the benefits of what your body has to offer, although, it is a lot cheaper.
All in all, the jury seems to be out on this one from a mainstream science standpoint but, if you’ve got the cash, it certainly can’t hurt and there are many women that say it’s pretty awesome stuff. I hear it goes well with a nice Chianti.