Is it safe to eat my placenta?
Answer From Mary Marnach, M.D.
Eating your placenta after giving birth (placentophagy) can pose harm to both you and your baby.
The placenta is an intricate organ that nourishes the growing fetus by exchanging nutrients and oxygen and filtering waste products via the umbilical cord. The most common placenta preparation — creating a capsule — is made by steaming and dehydrating the placenta or processing the raw placenta. People have also been known to eat the placenta raw, cooked, or in smoothies or liquid extracts.
These preparations don't completely destroy infectious bacteria and viruses that the placenta might contain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning against taking placenta capsules due to a case in which a newborn developed group B streptococcus (group B strep) after the mother took placenta pills containing group B strep and breast-fed her newborn. The mother's breast milk was thought to be infected from group B strep bacteria that she acquired after eating her infected placenta. Group B strep can cause serious illness in newborns.
While some claim that placentophagy can prevent postpartum depression; reduce postpartum bleeding; improve mood, energy and milk supply; and provide important micronutrients, such as iron, there's no evidence that eating the placenta provides health benefits.
Placentophagy can be harmful to you and your baby. If you're looking for ways to promote your health postpartum, talk to your health care provider about proven alternatives.
Aug. 16, 2019
- Farr A, et al. Human placentophagy: A review. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2018;218:401.e1.
- Schuette SA, et al. Perspectives from patients and healthcare providers on the practice of maternal placentophagy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2017;23:60.
- Gryder LK, et al. Effects of human maternal placentophagy on maternal postpartum iron status: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 2017;62:68.
- Buser GL, et al. Notes from the field: Late-onset infant Group B streptococcus infection associated with maternal consumption of capsules containing dehydrated placenta — Oregon, 2016. MMWR Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report. 2017;66:677.
- Group B strep (GBS): Causes and Types of Infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/about/infection.html. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- Placentophagy among women planning community births in the United States: Frequency, rationale, and associated neonatal outcomes. Birth. 2018;45:459.