You may be wondering why on Earth anyone would ever even consider ingesting their placenta. For the answer to that, we first look at the behaviour of other mammals. Almost every land mammal eats its’ placenta after giving birth to its’ young. The main theory for this behaviour is that these animals are concealing the afterbirth as to avoid attracting predators to the site of the newly born and vulnerable babies. It is plausible, although it doesn’t adequately explain why predatory animals do this, or why animals who are able to leave the birth site immediately still do this. The alternative theory suggests that the placenta contains concentrated levels of nutrients and hormones that aid the mother in regaining strength and nourishment following childbirth. Considering the placenta is source of nutrients and hormones for the baby up until shortly after birth, this is also a plausible explanation.
You may be wondering what the proposed benefits of this practice are for humans. It is believed to increase milk supply, shrink the uterus more quickly, increase energy and reduce postpartum depression, among other things. I personally experienced all of the above. Particularly, I felt the opposite of postpartum depression. I had incredible energy, mental clarity and ease with bonding. I opted for placenta encapsulation for both of my postpartum periods, so I have no way of comparing the two – and even if I had not done this for one of my pregnancies, there are certainly many variables at play that make it hard to attribute the benefits to a single factor. I have found people to be so quick to tell how disgusting it is, and so quick to dismiss how ideal my postpartum experience was, twice. It is entirely anecdotal; I have no way of proving it helped me more than if I hadn’t done it. Even so, I personally believe that the capsules contributed to my exemplary recovery and, moreover, I’m adamant that they caused no harm. At a time that can be so delicate for new mothers – when we hear stories of postpartum depression and baby blues, struggling with low milk supply and the mind-numbing fatigue that is supposedly a given with a newborn baby – I think it’s a horrible disservice to overlook the possibility of reaping the benefits of placenta encapsulation.
You may be wondering if it is safe to do so. Opponents of this practice will say that there are risks because the placenta is a filter organ. Similar to the function of the liver, it works to remove toxins from the baby’s blood supply, therefore it could potentially contain harmful levels of toxicity when consumed. Opponents will say that refortifying nutrients in this way is unnecessary for humans because we have much broader access to food and supplements to fulfill the nutritional needs of a post-partum mother. They will also say there is no scientific evidence proving any of the claimed benefits. To all of this I say: So what? The scientific evidence against it is just as weak as the scientific support for it. There’s no concrete evidence to suggest it’s harmful to the mother or the baby. When I was still undecided, I specifically searched for testimonial examples of bad experiences with placentophagy, and came up virtually empty-handed. The anecdotal evidence for the benefits is strong. People who have done it say that it has helped them. People who have done it with one pregnancy and not with another, say it has helped them. Could it be a placebo effect? Yes – but again, who cares? At the end of the day, if you have a chance to experience the benefits and if you can afford the relatively small cost, then I can’t see a reason why you shouldn’t try it.