Placentophagy, or consumption of the placenta, has been reported for decades to help stop the baby blues and diminish postpartum fatigue. Some women have mixed it into a smoothie or even taken it raw to tap into its powerful effects. For many who feel squeamish about this or want to reap the benefits of placenta for more than just a day or two, there is another option:
Powdered placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. The placenta’s hormonal makeup is completely unique to the mother.
The benefits include:
• Preventing and lessening the risk of postpartum depression or “baby blues”
• Replenishing iron from blood loss during birth and prevention of post birth anaemia in the mother
• Lending a consistent flow of Oxytocin (the love hormone) long after the birth euphoria ends
• Provides the HPL hormone to help establish early and healthy milk supply for breastfeeding
• Stabilizes constantly fluctuating hormones post birth
• Replenishes B vitamins and energy that was used during the labour and birth process
• Protection from infection and bleeding due to retained placental tissue or membranes
The placenta is composed of beneficial hormones, chemicals, iron, and proteins. These healing substances include
- Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone: Contributes to mammary gland development in preparation for lactation; stabilizes postpartum mood; regulates post-birth uterine cramping; decreases depression; normalizes and stimulates libido.
- Prolactin: Promotes lactation; increases milk supply; enhances the mothering instinct.
- Oxytocin: Decreases pain and increases bonding in mother and infant; counteracts the production of stress hormones such as Cortisol; greatly reduces postpartum bleeding; enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex.
- Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF): Stimulates the production of your body’s natural opioids, including endorphins; reduces pain; increases well-being.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: Regulates the thyroid gland; boosts energy and supports recovery from stressful events.
- Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH): Low levels of CRH are implicated in postpartum depression. Regulation of CRH helps prevent depression.
- Cortisone: Reduces inflammation and swelling; promotes healing.
- Interferon: Triggers the protective defenses of the immune system to fight infection.
- Prostaglandins: Regulates contractions in the uterus after birth; helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Anti-inflammatory effects.
- Iron: Replenishes maternal iron stores to combat anemia, a common postpartum condition. Increases energy; decreases fatigue and depression.
- Hemoglobin: Oxygen-carrying molecule which provides a boost in energy.
- Urokinase Inhibiting Factor and Factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing.
- Immunoglobulin G (IgG): Antibody molecules which support the immune system.
- Human Placental Lactogen (hPL): This hormone has lactogenic and growth-promoting properties; promotes mammary gland growth in preparation for lactation in the mother. It also regulates maternal glucose, protein, and fat levels.
Studies, Books and Articles
Placentophagy protocol in management of postpartum care
”Giving…placenta to a new mother following birth has become standard protocol among a growing number of midwives in the United States. By nourishing the blood and fluids, endocrine glands and organs, Placenta will …reduce or stop postpartum bleeding, speed up recovery, boost energy and relieve postpartum blues.” Homes, Peter. 1993. Jade Remedies, Snow Lotus Press, 352.
The Effect of Ingestion of Desiccated (dried) Placenta on Milk Production
“All patients were given desiccated placenta prepared as previously described (C.A. II, 2492) in doses of 10 grains in a capsule 3 times a day. Only those mothers were chosen for the study whose parturition was normal and only the weights of those infants were recorded whose soul source of nourishment was mothers milk. The growth of 177 infants was studied. The rate of growth is increased by the ingestion of placenta by the mother… the maternal ingestion of dried placenta tissue so stimulates the tissues of the infants feeding on the milk produced during this time, that unit weight is able to add on greater increments of matter, from day to day, than can unit weight of infants feeding on milk from mothers not ingesting this substance.” Hammett, Frederick. S. 1918. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 36. American Society of Biological Chemists, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, original press: Harvard University.
The American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children
”It has been shown that the feeding of desiccated placenta to women during the first eleven days after parturition causes an increase in the protein and lactose percent of the milk… All the mothers were receiving the same diet, and to the second set 0.6mg of desiccated placenta was fed three times a day throughout the period. Certain definite differences in the progress of growth of the two sets of infants are to be observed. It is evident that the recovery from the postnatal decline in weight is hastened by the consumption of milk produced under the influence of maternally ingested placenta.” McNeile, Lyle G. 1918. The American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children, 77. W.A. Townsend & Adams, original press: University of Michigan.
Placenta as Lactagagon
“Powdered Placenta Hominis was used for 57 cases of insufficient lactation. Within
4 days, 48 women had markedly increased milk production, with the remainder
following suit over the next three days.” Bensky/Gamble. 1997. Materia Medica, Eastland Press, 549.
“An attempt was made to increase milk secretion in mothers by administration of dried placenta per os. Of 210 controlled cases only 29 (13.8%) gave negative results; 181 women (86.2%) reacted positively to the treatment, 117 (55.7%) with good and 64 (30.5%) with very good results. It could be shown by similar experiments with a beef preparation that the effective substance in placenta is not protein. Nor does the lyofilised placenta act as a biogenic stimulator so that the good results of placenta administration cannot be explained as a form of tissue therapy per os. The question of a hormonal influence remains open. So far it could be shown that progesterone is probably not active in increasing lactation after administration of dried placenta. This method of treating hypogalactia seems worth noting since the placenta preparation is easily obtained, has not so far been utilized and in our experience is successful in the majority of women.” Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.
Placentophagia: A Biobehavioral Enigma
KRISTAL, M. B. NEUROSCI. BIOBEHAV. REV. 4(2) 141-150, 1980.
“Although ingestion of the afterbirth during delivery is a reliable component of parturitional behavior of mothers in most mammalian species, we know almost nothing of the direct causes or consequences of the act. Traditional explanations of placentophagia, such as general or specific hunger, are discussed and evaluated in light of recent experimental results. Next, research is reviewed which has attempted to distinguish between placentophagia as a maternal behavior and placentophagia as an ingestive behavior. Finally, consequences of the behavior, which may also be viewed as ultimate causes in an evolutionary sense, are considered, such as the possibility of beneficial effects on maternal behavior or reproductive competence, on protection against predators, and on immunological protection afforded either the mother or the young.”
Placenta for Pain Relief
Placenta ingestion by rats enhances y- and n-opioid antinociception, but suppresses A-opioid antinociception
Jean M. DiPirro*, Mark B. Kristal
Ingestion of placenta or amniotic fluid produces a dramatic enhancement of centrally mediated opioid antinociception in the rat. The present experiments investigated the role of each opioid receptor type (A, y, n) in the antinociception-modulating effects of Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF—presumably the active substance). Antinociception was measured on a 52 jC hotplate in adult, female rats after they ingested placenta or control substance (1.0 g) and after they received an intracerebroventricular injection of a y-specific ([D-Pen2,D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE); 0, 30, 50, 62, or 70 nmol), A-specific ([D-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin (DAMGO); 0, 0.21, 0.29, or 0.39 nmol), or n-specific (U-62066; spiradoline; 0, 100, 150, or 200 nmol) opioid receptor agonist. The results showed that ingestion of placenta potentiated y- and n-opioid antinociception, but attenuated A-opioid antinociception. This finding of POEF action as both opioid receptor-specific and complex provides an important basis for understanding the intrinsic pain-suppression mechanisms that are activated during parturition and modified by placentophagia, and important information for the possible use of POEF as an adjunct to opioids in pain management.
D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Enhancement of Opioid-Mediated Analgesia: A Solution to the Enigma of Placentophagia.
KRISTAL, M.B. NEUROSCI BIOBEHAV REV 15(3) 425-435, 1991.
Two major consequences of placentophagia, the ingestion of afterbirth materials that occurs usually during mammalian parturition, have been uncovered in the past several years. The first is that increased contact, associated with ingesting placenta and amniotic fluid from the surface of the young, causes an accelerated onset of maternal behavior toward those young. The second, which probably has importance for a broader range of mammalian taxa than the first, is that ingestion of afterbirth materials produces enhancement of ongoing opioid-mediated analgesia. The active substance in placenta and amniotic fluid has been named POEF, for Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor. Recent research on both consequences is summarized, with particular attention to POEF, the generalizability of the enhancement phenomenon, its locus and mode of action, and its significance for new approaches to the management of pain and addiction.
“The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandin which stimulates involution (an inward curvature or penetration, or, a shrinking or return to a former size) of the uterus, in effect cleaning the uterus out. The placenta also contains small amounts of oxytocin which eases birth stress and causes the smooth muscles around the mammary cells to contract and eject milk. The most general benefit of placentophagy, according to recent research, is that placenta and amniotic fluid contain a molecule (POEF, Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor) that modifies the activity of endogenous opioids in such a way that produces an enhancement of the natural reduction in pain that occurs shortly after and during delivery.”
Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation
Blank MS, Friesen HG.: J Reprod Fertil. 1980 Nov;60(2):273-8.
In rats that were allowed to eat the placentae after parturition concentrations of serum prolactin were elevated on Day 1 but concentrations of serum progesterone were depressed on Days 6 and 8 post partum when compared to those of rats prevented from eating the placentae. In rats treated with PMSG to induce superovulation serum prolactin and progesterone values were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated on Days 3 and 5 respectively, after being fed 2 g rat placenta/day for 2 days. However, feeding each rat 4 g placenta/day significantly (P < 0.02) lowered serum progesterone on Day 5. Oestrogen injections or bovine or human placenta in the diet had no effect. The organic phase of a petroleum ether extract of rat placenta (2 g-equivalents/day) lowered peripheral concentrations of progesterone on Day 5, but other extracts were ineffective. We conclude that the rat placenta contains orally-active substance(s) which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones.
SEX, TIME AND POWER – HOW WOMEN’S SEXUALITY SHAPED HUMAN EVOLUTION
”The fifth major cause of iron depletion in Gyna sapiens is not so obvious as the previous four but nontheless significantly increases her risk of developing an iron-deficiency anemia. The transfer and loss of iron associated with gestation and brith exist to a lesser degree in other mammalian mothers but still pose a problem. To counter it, Mother Nature equipped females of the other mammalian species with a vital instinct-an urgent hunger driving them to consume their offspring’s placenta. A plump souffle of meaty iron, amino acids and essential fats, the placenta is the consummate first meal a mother should partake of immediately after the ordeal of delivery. It is the perfect replacement for the very nutrients she lost just minutes earlier, because a freshly expelled placenta contains the iron equivalent of one to two blood transfusions. Gyna sapiens have lost her craving for this delicacy. Our closest relatives, chimpanzees, dine with gusto on their afterbirth immediately after delivering their infants.” pg. 28-29.
BIRTH – THE SURPRISING HISTORY OF HOW WE ARE BORN
“In the 1970’s, placentophagy became part of radical home birth customs, particularly in the San Francisco area. One 1980 estimate in Scientific Digest said 5 percent of such West Coast deliveries involved consuming the afterbirth; the East Coast rate among home-birthers was about 1 or 2 percent. It is unclear how many of the placentophagists were vegetarians, but probably many were. They considered the placenta to be sacred, and, of course, because the organ gave life and nothing was killed to put it on the table, it was considered an honor to consume it.” pg. 218
PLACENTA: THE GIFT OF LIFE
“Throughout the world generations have passed down knowledge of how ingesting placenta helps a mother’s postpartum recovery. Women using placenta remedies after birth feel stronger, are happier and can breastfeed more easily….Many conditions during birth, the postpartum period and nursing would not arise if we returned to the old custom of applying placenta remedies.”
PLACENTA – THE FORGOTTEN CHAKRA
“The placenta, the root of your origin, is a miraculous organ that shares and protects your life. It is the conductor that unites you with your mother and serves as the control panel of the womb-ship that sustains you until you are born. It was conceived at the moment of your genesis. Your placenta is genetically identical to you. Though you share some of your parents’ genetic identity, unless you have a monozygotic (identical) twin, no one, except your placenta, has ever been so perfectly, exactly you. Sexual reproduction, the act of creating new life, only works because of the placenta. As mammals, we reproduce sexually, so sex is the reddest, hottest tile in the mosaic of our earthly lives, and the placenta is the mandala in the center of this miracle. Historically, our creation stories tell of the Earth Mother birthing the world: her amniotic fluid became the oceans, the placenta became the Tree of Life. This demonstrates how essential the placenta is to our survival and how embedded it is in our psyche. According to Chaos Theory, dynamic systems are sensitive to start up conditions. Human beings are extremely dynamic systems, and our survival hinges on the strength of our individual immune systems. The placenta is the commander-in-chief of the baby’s immune system during embryonic development (i.e. condition of start-up). Thus, we must protect our offspring’s placentas by being gentle during the transition of birth, to give our children the best possible start and protect the very foundation of their immune systems.”