As if the sacrifices and indignities of pregnancy and childbirth aren’t enough, women are being told to eat their own placentas to avoid postpartum depression. Not malnourished women in some remote third-world tribal village but here in the United States, Prozac Nation, the land of plentiful and well-documented treatments for depression that don’t involve steaming and stewing one’s bodily organs. Some moms here are swapping recipes online and learning how to cook placentas, watch the video, I dare you. Those who can’t get past the ick factor of placenta paella or placenta jerky can hire someone to steal away the afterbirth and return it in capsule form.
The practice, aka placentophagy, has a Facebook following, a fashion line (I heart placentas) and a celebrity spokesmom, actress January Jones who credits her post-pregnancy figure and vigor to her placenta.
Did I mention the loose smattering of so-called scientific evidence with the veneer of validity?
Let’s start at the afterbirth empire, PlacentaBenefits.info, the organization founded by the placenta-preneur who supposedly refined the process of turning bloody organs into pills. The bevy of Scientific Research there boils down to 9 references. The first, a 1954 article from Gynaecologia. Prehistoric. Two from 1980. Almost prehistoric. Five about not placentas but iron deficiency and/or postpartum depression. A 2004 study examined whether placentophagy had any benefits - in rats. The pregnant creatures experienced analgesic effects only if they ingested a small amount of placenta and also received foot shocks or morphine. Larger amounts of placenta didn’t provide any pain relief. So ladies, order the afterbirth appetizer if you must but don’t forget the side of opiates.