Image from http://nymag.com/news/features/placenta-2011-8/

Just when I thought I heard it all a friend sent me a link to an article in New York Magazine that proved me wrong. It showed a picture of a placenta in a pot with an umbilical swirling on top accompanied by these instructions:

  1. Step 1: drain blood and blot dry.
  2. Cook for half- hour
  3. Remove placenta from heat. Will resemble brisket.
  4. Chop into slivers (as demonstrated by placenta-preparer Jennifer Mayer) and place in dehydrator overnight.

The article, The Placenta Cookbook , described a process where the capsule is removed from the placenta (encapsulation) and it is prepared for either meals or pills. No, I’m not making this up. There are people who actually make smoothies and “meat” dishes out of placentas, while others turn them into pills. The placenta is allegedly consumed to promote improved breastfeeding (although there are no scientific studies to prove this) and decreased episodes of post partum depression. According to the article, some people experience more energy and a “rush” – all from ingesting placenta pills.

The placenta has always held an important role during pregnancy. It produces hormones such as progesterone which prevent miscarriages. It carries nutrients to the baby from the mother and removes harmful toxins. If it separates from the baby too soon as in a placenta abruption, the mother bleeds excessively and the baby runs the risk of dying. It can even solve mysteries. In cases of unexplained fetal death or birth injuries, it is the placenta that is examined to determine whether there were undiagnosed problems regarding the baby prior to its birth.

It’s well known that cosmetic companies have purchased placentas to make hair and skin care products with extracted hormones. Many years ago, during my residency training, a family requested to take their baby’s placenta home so that it could be buried in their backyard. It was part of their religious culture. I paged the administrator on-duty because I did not feel I had the authority to make that decision. The placenta was considered a biohazard. Back then, there were no laws or protocols. The administrator granted their wish but there are many hospitals that won’t budge without a court order and there have been women who have challenged the courts.

Should women eat their babies’ placentas? Please, let me know what you think.