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Raw Placenta Smoothie: Are They Really Good for Mothers?

Raw Placenta Smoothie: Are They Really Good for Mothers?

In this modern age, more people try to explore about non-traditional yet natural health boosters to steer away from artificial supplements. Drinking raw placenta smoothie, for one, has piqued the interest of some mothers-to-be.

Raw placenta smoothie: Are they really worth a shot?

Placentophagy (practice of eating placenta) is said to originate in the United States in the 1970s as a means to combat postpartum depression. However, there are reports that this practice may have even existed in ancient times as there are traditional cultures who consumed placenta in various ways—as raw, cooked, or dried and pulverized.

What are the supposed benefits?

It is touted to have potential benefits such as increasing breast milk production and boosting energy because of the nutrients packed in the placenta.

The presence of estrogen-progesterone, lactogen, iron, growth factors, β-endorphins, zinc, and oxytocin in the placenta has already been studied. But the stability in raw tissue and in various preparation, as well their effects after consumption, have not been validated.

Are these safe?

It was previously thought that placenta is sterile. But recent studies show that there is similarity between the microbiological composition of the oral cavity and the placenta. Virus and pathogenic bacteria may also be present in some. Medications given recently to laboring mothers (i.e. general anesthetics, opioids) may likewise be present in the placenta.

Some argue that instead of taking in raw placenta, the dried and pulverized version may be used instead as supplement. Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend placenta capsules due to possible inadequate eradication of infectious pathogens during the production. Following a spontaneous, non-interventional delivery without long-term pharmacological treatment and known infection during pregnancy, the associated risk is said to be low.

Caveat is that there are still no controlled scientific studies performed on whether placenta consumption offers any benefits, but there are reports of possible harm.

How are these usually prepared?

Some chop the raw placenta and eat it. Some mix it with their smoothies. Others prefer to cook it. Marketed supplements are steamed, dried, pulverized, then encapsulated.

What are some of the risks?

Infection is one of the potential risks. There is evidence that mothers who have eaten their placenta can spread serious bacterial or viral infections to their babies. It could even harm the mother herself. Traces of heavy metals, medications, chemicals, infection can be found in the placenta.

It is therefore not advisable for women to try raw placenta smoothies. The purported benefits are currently not backed up by solid evidence, and the potential harm is real.

How about placenta capsules?

An incidence of Group B Streptococcus infection was reported by CDC after a newborn got infected from a mother who supplemented with placenta capsules. Group B strep can cause serious illness such as pneumonia, meningitis, and even sepsis. Even placenta capsules are not recommended.

Is there a benefit to consuming your own placenta?

There are anecdotal reports of improved mood, less pain, and fatigue but these have not been studied and validated. Until such time that there is strong evidence to support this practice, it is best to be on the safer side.

For concerns about your diet and nutrition, always consult your doctor.

Learn more about Other Mother Care Topics here.

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Sources

Farr, A., Chervenak, F. A., McCullough, L. B., Baergen, R. N., & Grünebaum, A. (2018). Human placentophagy: a review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 218(4), 401.e1–401.e11. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.016 

Johnson, S. K., Pastuschek, J., Rödel, J., Markert, U. R., & Groten, T. (2018). Placenta – Worth Trying? Human Maternal Placentophagia: Possible Benefit and Potential Risks. Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 78(9), 846–852. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-0674-6275

Coyle, C. W., Hulse, K. E., Wisner, K. L., Driscoll, K. E., & Clark, C. T. (2015). Placentophagy: therapeutic miracle or myth?. Archives of women’s mental health, 18(5), 673–680. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-015-0538-8

Stanley C, Baillargeon A, Selk A. Understanding Placentophagy. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2019 Jan;48(1):37-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2018.10.002. Epub 2018 Nov 26. PMID: 30496722.

Elwood, C., Money, D., van Schalkwyk, J., Pakzad, Z., Bos, H., & Giesbrecht, E. (2019). No. 378-Placentophagy. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 41(5), 679–682. doi:10.1016/j.jogc.2018.10.006

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Written by Mary Rani Cadiz, M.D. Updated May 19
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