(Vienna, 12 October 2017) More and more women want to take their own placenta with them after childbirth in order to eat it for "health reasons". This phenomenon is growing, especially in the USA, but also in Europe, although physicians are increasingly expressing concerns about it. One example is the gynaecologist Alex Farr from the University Clinic for Gynaecology at the MedUni Vienna, who has now published a recent paper in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology".
Young celeb mothers from the USA tell us in social and other media in which way they have eaten the placenta of their baby. On many esoteric and alternative medical websites you can also find instructions and even cooking recipes for the preparation of the allegedly healthy placenta. This tissue rejected after birth is currently stylised as a superfood in a mixture of mythological and pseudo-medical arguments. Due to its high levels of nutrients and hormones, it is said to improve the milk production of breastfeeding mothers, to have a preventive effect against puerperal depression and to bring new energy and a faster recovery after pregnancy. However, none of the alleged effects are scientifically proven. On the one hand, because it would be ethically unacceptable to analyse this topic in a sufficiently good study design and, on the other hand, because an above-average placebo effect is to be assumed.
Gynaecologist Alex Farr from the Medical University of Vienna worked in cooperation with the Weill Cornell Medical Center at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York and did research on the subject, which in some cases still is highly taboo. He recently published his findings in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology as an expert statement. Farr: "Medically speaking, the placenta is a waste product. Most mammals eat the placenta after birth, but we can only guess why they do so. After the placenta is genetically part of the newborn, eating the placenta borders on cannibalism. Farr also sees no evidence of medical benefits. On the contrary, the presumed nutrients such as iron, selenium and zinc are not present in sufficient concentrations in the placenta. However, high concentrations of heavy metals in the placenta were found to accumulate there during pregnancy ".
And above all, the consumption, which usually takes place in the form of processed capsules or globules, also carries a risk of infection. Farr: "It was not until June 2017 that the U.S. Federal Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), officially warned about this trend because of a recent case. The baby of a mother who had eaten placenta capsules suffered life-threatening blood poisoning from streptococcus several times. These bacteria could be detected in the placenta capsules of the mother and were probably transmitted by her to the child. The gynaecologist regards it as a problem that meeting the women’s desire to take the tissue with them is a legal grey area. This can only be clearly prohibited if follow-up examinations of the placenta seem to be required from a medical point of view. Farr advises to strongly point out the risk to young mothers.
Farr A, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Baergen RN, Grünebaum A. Human placentophagy: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Aug 30 [Epub ahead of print]