Eating placenta? Why does it work? (if it works?) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 10-17-2006, 06:59 PM - Thread Starter
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As a hopeful newly converted UC-planner this is yet another question I never thought I would ask.

I have read on so many natural-birth sites that eating a piece of the placenta after birth helps stop hemmorhage.

I do find the thought to be both somewhat romantic yet repulsive. I have no desire to eat my placenta whatsoever - but if there is indeed a point in doing so, then I would be willing to reconsider. (can you tell that I am the "evidence-based-please" kind of person?)

My question is - is this a romantic myth or is it fact?
I am guessing that asking this question here is bound to get me a lot of "its true its true" answers, but my real question is - if it works then HOW does it work? And why?

What is it that the placenta contains that supposedly helps stop hemmorhage in an instant?
Is it hormones?
And if so then how much hormone?
If it does indeed contain hormones (or other substances) that can stop bleeding, then how big a piece of placenta will provide enough hormones to help stop a potentially dangerous bleeding?
And what part of the placenta is most effective?


Single mom to ds(8), dd(6) and ds(5)

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#2 of 9 Old 10-17-2006, 07:07 PM
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I have every intention of eating my placenta, but the wimpy way: dehydrated, ground, and put into capsules. My husband has already agreed that this will be his job. I'm vegan and I just don't think that I can convince my body to actually swallow meat even if it has nothing to do with cruelty and everything to do with health. Every animal I've known to give birth eats it, so it must be a pretty good choice.
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#3 of 9 Old 10-17-2006, 08:54 PM
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The hormones in the placenta are a sign for the body to clamp down and stop bleeding. You don't have to actually eat it, you can just slice off a small section and stick it under your tongue. Your body can absorb the hormones that way.

I didn't do this with ds. With dd, I decided to try it to see if I could handle it if ever the need arose in future births. You just need a small slice. Rinse it off under water to get the blood off. Stick it under your tongue.

Honestly, it isn't bad like you would think it would be. Biting my cheek tastes a lot worse. I forgot that I had it under my tongue. I asked dh a long time later for a tissue, and he asked why. Um...because I forgot to spit the slice of placenta out.

Eating the placenta is also supposed to be a good way to fight (or prevent) postpartum depression.

Mom to Eoin (11/02), Eilis (09/04), Eamon (07/07), and Ellery (04/10)
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#4 of 9 Old 10-18-2006, 09:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to those who have replied to this post. I had hoped to get some "scientific" explanations. I have heard and read a lot of the "it is supposed to help with"- threads, websites etc.

What I am actually hoping to find out is whether there is any scientific backup to this assumption. In other words I am not going to eat my placenta if there are some superstitious beliefs around that it can be benificial (no offence to those who thinks that is reason enough..) , but I would be willing to give it a try if there are some scientific studies - either of the effect of eating the placenta - or of the actual "nutritional" contents of a placenta - such as what hormones and other substances can be found in the placenta.

I will try to do some research myself.. I had hoped some of you knew of such studies so I wouldnt have to : but here you go.

If anyone else feels inspired to join the research club, please add your findings here


My first finding is this article:
Cows that eat placenta regain fertility faster

Resumption of ovary activity and normal estrus cycles in postpartum cows after inclusion of placenta-containing additives in the diet
Food additives made of placenta tissues of healthy cattle, included in the diet of cows 23–38 days before calving and/or in different intervals of the postpartum period, stimulated the resumption of ovary activity and the manifestation of normal estrus cycles (with ovulation) in cows. The cow fertilization rates during 80 days after calving was 50–80%. These values increased more than twofold in comparison with the fertility level of cows fed a normal diet. The level of fertilization after inclusion of placenta-containing additives in the diet of cows 5 days before ovulation, in estrus cycles that took place during 6 months after calving, increased 38 % on average, in comparison with that of cows fed a normal diet.
So far one in favor of eating placenta - eeh or maybe not (not sure DP would want a fourth baby even closer than the third : )

Then I found this study: Enhancement of opioid-mediated analgesia: a solution to the enigma of placentophagia
I am not quite sure what it is actually saying? That there is some kind of narcotic/endorphine or whatever present in the placenta making it addictive Ehh..??

Single mom to ds(8), dd(6) and ds(5)

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#5 of 9 Old 10-18-2006, 09:41 AM
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Well, I don't have links to back this up but I would think that it is because the placenta has a lot of oxytocin in it from labor and so it gives your body a concentrated dose of it, naturally... and it's the maternal side you want to eat/place under tongue.

Mum to DS (8yrs), DD (6yrs), and DS(3.5yrs). kid.gif

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#6 of 9 Old 10-18-2006, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Here is a whole list of resources - and a more "scientific-minded" answer to my quetions - if anyone else is interested:

I am searching for info regarding the benefits or experiences of the mother eating some of the placenta after birth. Can you direct me to some likely resources?
14th April 1999

Mothers of most mammalian species ingest the placenta and some amniotic fluid after giving birth (placentophagia). The reasons for this are still something of a mystery, but several interesting observations have been made. Placentophagia could potentially have nutritional, physiological, immunological and behavioural effects. A useful review of earlier ideas can be found in (Kristal, 1980). More recent studies have shown that placentophagia accelerates the onset of maternal behaviour towards the young, and enhances ongoing opioid-mediated analgesia (reviewed in Kristal, 1991; see also: Kristal, Thompson, and Grishkat, 1985; Tarapacki, Thompson, and Kristal, 1992). The rat placenta also contains substances which modify the blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones (Blank and Friesen, 1980): in rats that eat placentae after parturition, serum levels of prolactin rise and progesterone levels become lowered compared to rats prevented from eating placentae.

Professor M.B. Kristal, Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Buffalo 14260 is one of the leading exponents of work into this topic.


Blank, M.S., and Friesen, H.G. (1980) Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, 60(2), 273-278 (Nov).

Field, M. (1984) Placentophagy. Midwives Chronicle, 97(1162), 375-376 (Nov).

Kristal, M.B. (1980) Placentophagia: a biobehavioral enigma (or De gustibus non disputandum est). Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 4(2):141-150 (Summer).

Kristal, M.B. (1991) Enhancement of opioid-mediated analgesia: a solution to the enigma of placentophagia. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 15(3), 425-435 (Fall).

Kristal, M.B., Thompson, A.C., and Grishkat, H.L. (1985) Placenta ingestion enhances opiate analgesia in rats. Physiology of Behavior, 35(4):481-486 (Oct).

Ober, W.B. (1973) Placentophagy. Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 41(2):317-318 (Feb).

Ober, W.B. (1979) Notes on placentophagy. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 55(6), 591-599 (Jun).

Tarapacki, J.A., Thompson, A.C., and Kristal, M.B. (1992) Gastric vagotomy blocks opioid analgesia enhancement produced by placenta ingestion. Physiology of Behavior, 52(1), 179-182 (Jul).
I found the above quote on this website:

Hmm sounds like the above supports the assumption that eating the placenta helps prevent PPD..

Single mom to ds(8), dd(6) and ds(5)

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#7 of 9 Old 10-18-2006, 03:03 PM
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I would ask on the midwife/doula/CBE forum- alot of midwives enjoy research and might be able to help you.

Rachel, wife to Brian, mother of 5. Lover of birth.
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#8 of 9 Old 10-18-2006, 11:29 PM
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In my dog breeding books it says that the placenta contains a lot of oxytocin and not to attempt to take away the placenta for any reason. The oxytocin, of course, causes uterine contractions (and I imagine helps with the first nursing and bonding).
I haven't read any studies that evaluate the levels of hormones. I imagine it would be difficult to find enough modern human test subjects to come up with a really definitive study.

Biologically speaking, and evolutionarily speaking I couldn't imagine disposing of something that (nearly?) all placental mammals eat. If placentaphagia is so old as to be widespread behavior among mammals I just have to think of it as the physiological norm. NOT eating the placenta would be an intervention IMO. I think this is a scientific view point/hypothesis- even if I don't have any "evidence" other than all mammals eat their placenta.

I have to say that my last placenta smelled absoulutely delicious. (I didn't eat it because it touched a hospital floor and I wanted to eat it raw and couldn't get over the food touching the hospital floor). I totally plan on eating as much of my placenta as I can - raw- as soon after birth as possible.

and planning to eat it again
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#9 of 9 Old 10-19-2006, 01:48 PM
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This is not a scientific study, but I will share anyway.
I was concerned I would have some postpartum emotional trouble considering my previous birth was the stillbirth of my third daughter. I saved my placenta from my fourth child and at about 1 week postpartum was having a very difficult time emotionally. I made placenta smoothie and the turn around was immediate. I continued to "dose" myself with placenta smoothie every time I felt low and overwhelmed or just really worn down. It worked wonders.

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