Placenta Pills for Postpartum Depression

With Amalie asleep, Leilani is texting friends and family
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

There is a rising trend among new mothers to save their baby’s placenta in order to encapsulate it into pill form. Ingesting the placenta is believed to have a number of health benefits. One of the most significant is combating postpartum depression. It is believed that ingesting the placenta helps regulate hormone levels. Other health benefits claimed by proponents of taking placenta pills include:

  • Increased energy for the mother
  • Increased milk supply
  • Increase in iron levels

The practice is not without detractors. While the Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have not taken official positions on ingesting the placenta, there are many OB-GYNs who express concern that the practice may be dangerous. Potential harmful effects include:

  • The placenta may contain harmful bacteria, and ingesting it could lead to infections.
  • Belief that ingesting the placenta will combat postpartum depression may lead some women to forego seeking professional, medical help when they need it.

Eating the placenta is not without precedent in nature. Most mammals eat the placenta within moments of childbirth. Proponents of ingesting your baby’s placenta suggest that the reason most mammals eat the placenta is to replace nutrients which are lost during the process of childbirth.

Eating the placenta has not been widely practiced in the western world until recent years. However, there are several cultures around the world which accept eating your baby’s placenta as normal.

To date, there is a lack of conclusive proof that ingesting your baby’s placenta will decrease your likelihood of postpartum depression. For now, most of the evidence which suggests a link between ingesting placenta pills (or eating the placenta) and relief from postpartum symptoms is anecdotal. However, research is currently underway at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and researchers hope to establish a direct connection between ingesting placenta and a reduction in instances of postpartum depression. The research also hopes to determine whether processing the placenta into powder (and eventually pills or capsules) decreases its potency.

If you are interested in having your baby’s placenta encapsulated, there are a number of companies which can take care of it for you. The average cost in the United States is about $225.

Would you be willing to ingest your baby’s placenta if it carried health benefits to you or helped you deal with postpartum depression? Why or why not?

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