After giving birth some new mothers want to keep their placentas for cultural reasons, but more and more new mothers are keeping them for a different reason–to eat them.
New York Magazine recently ran a feature called “The Placenta Cookbook,” which studied all aspects of the placentophagia fad, from the professional placenta-preparer to recipes and tips to enjoy the afterbirth to step-by-step instructions on how to prepare it to preserve the nutritional value thought to be contained in the tissue.
There are also various websites where mothers talk about topics like how to drain the blood from the tissue and recipes ranging from roast placenta to placenta lasagne.
Placentophagia’s growing popularity has to do with the belief that eating the placenta may offer a new mother health benefits (even though there are no scientific studies to back up these claims). It has been claimed that placenta eating can help with everything from postpartum depression to pain relief to milk production.
Humans are actually one of the only mammals that don’t eat their own placentas, leading some researchers to believe that maybe animals know something e don’t. The placenta is known to contain high levels of things like iron, vitamin B-12 and various hormones.
The medical community rarely comments on the practice of placentophagia. The placenta is considered biohazardous material in hospitals since it is human tissue and could carry infectious diseases. Now hospitals are scrambling to develop procedures to accomodate patients’ requests to take the placenta home. So far it appears that as long as certain medical criteria are met many hospitals will comply with the requests.
It is important to remember, however, that there are no scientifically proven health benefits at this time.