Thread: Placenta: To Eat or Not to Eat?
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#1 Placenta: To Eat or Not to Eat?09-23-2012, 04:40 PM
Mark B. Kristal
Women, mainly in the United States, are lately announcing that they will eat placenta as part of their childbirth experience. They expect to experience major health benefits like prevented or reduced postpartum depression. A couple of celebrities mentioned it and that brought placentophagia into the spotlight. What's going on?
"Placentophagia" pertains to ingestion of placenta, fluids, and tissues by mothers during delivery. The behavior, which is almost universal among nonhuman mammals (whales and dolphins are exceptions), is virtually absent in human cultures, past and present. There are occasionally individuals or groups who do it, but they are an exception and not the rule. Eventually someone will do anything conceivable to the human mind; for instance, search the web for "man eats airplane."
Human cultures have actually shown a strong aversion to placentophagia, and some have even imposed taboos against the practice. Yet there was a bit of a fad in the hippie era when some nature-oriented communes were reported to have cooked up a placenta or two.
Today we are in the midst of another placentophagia fad. Women, reporting encouragement by doulas and midwives and aided by unverified web information, are deciding to ingest placenta at delivery. They eat it raw, cooked, blended into smoothies, or dried and encapsulated, in order to prevent or reduce negative aspects of childbirth, such as postpartum depression, "baby blues," fatigue, lactational insufficiency and hormone deficiencies.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence showing that placentophagia by humans medically or physiologically ameliorates any of these problems. However, websites of doulas, midwives and commercial placenta encapsulators often assert that placentophagia at delivery is useful because, for instance, dried human placenta has been used for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine. Actually, Zi He Che, as it is known, is used on rare occasions to treat a variety of ailments from impotence and infertility to tinnitus and chronic cough. First, its specific effects, if any, cannot be isolated because it is always blended with many other herbs or medicines. Second, there are no scientific studies showing that it is effective at all. The same can be said for treatments like hornet nest or turtle shell for cancer, Chinese dates for ADD/ADHD and pearl, antelope horn, or earthworm for epilepsy.
There are documented benefits of placentophagia in animals, relating primarily to enhancing pain relief during labor and delivery, and helping to produce immediate maternal behavior at delivery because of the mother's attraction to afterbirth material on the young. Nonhuman mothers find afterbirth irresistibly attractive at delivery, but clearly human mothers do not. Furthermore, for animals, the methods of preparing and administering afterbirth material are essential. For women engaging in placentophagia these parameters are irrelevant. The urban legends, anecdotes and testimonials all indicate positive results regardless of method of preparation, time of ingestion relative to birth, and amount ingested. What only seems to matter is that they expected it to work before they did it. This is a classic formula for a placebo effect -- an improvement based on expectation, not on pharmacological mechanisms.
Even though human afterbirth contains the same analgesia-enhancing component as that of other species, we do not yet know whether this component, or others, has an effect on human problems.
Actually, placebo effects can occur even when beneficial components are present. About 100 years ago, Brown-Sequard developed a treatment for impotence consisting of injections of extracts of ground testes from other species; French surgeon Serge Voronoff developed a method of grafting pieces of testes from other species onto the testicles of his impotent patients. Both were successful; many patients experienced a return of potency. The fact that testes secrete testosterone was not yet known. However, Brown-Sequard's extract did not contain testosterone; and Voronoff's grafts were rejected and could not have secreted testosterone. Why then did so many of their patients experience positive effects on potency? Because they expected to.
Nothing like a nice birthday dinner.
09-23-2012, 08:58 PM
Just taking a break from preparing make ahead recipes for friends from Canada coming to visit for a few days this coming Friday, and checked in on this.
Good thing we have eaten dinner, and not surprising at all that "celebrity" twits would embrace such a thing.
I would not even *dream* of doing so, no matter the dubious benefits mentioned ... even if cooked in shells, smothered in garlic butter, and served piping hot, as in my fav appetizers ... escargots, served at French restaurants!
These people are out of their minds! YUCK!
Nothing like a nice birthday dinner.
After giving birth to my son, and all the fun of going through the labor, believe me, the last thing on my mind would have been ... "Oh Doctor, please, don't throw away the placenta.
Please put it into a doggy-bag for me to take home and cook it up!" ...American By Choice ~ 1980
09-23-2012, 10:03 PM
One more post, then outta here.
How can I ever enjoy eating calamari (squid whatevers) again without thinking of fried placenta?!! ...
Please, please, don't even think of mentioning *conch fritters* which I also loved to order, when we lived in Florida!
Ya hear, darlin? ...American By Choice ~ 1980
09-24-2012, 10:24 AM
- Join Date
- May 2012
Ick. Why do these people limit themselves to placenta? Why don't they eat everything else that comes out of their or someone else's body?
09-24-2012, 11:11 AM
Years ago, SNL did a fake commercial for Placenta Helper, like Hamburger Helper. You added the seasonings and turned any old placenta into a special treat.
What was once parody is now chic.--Odysseus
Sic Hacer Pace, Para Bellum.
Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the people!
09-24-2012, 09:31 PMAmerican By Choice ~ 1980
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