The study, published online today in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, is the largest so far to look at the effects of eating one’s placenta—a practice known as placentophagy. Researchers used data from a 10-year genetic study involving 138 women with a history of mood disorders and compared data on outcomes between those who had eaten their placenta and those who had not.
“When you ask women why they’re consuming their placenta, many will say that they think it will help improve their mood in the postpartum period," said Jehannine Austin, the executive director of the research institute, professor in the UBC faculty of medicine, and lead investigator of the study. “But there has been no research evidence showing that it really works, and our new study adds weight to this idea.”
Eating one's placenta following childbirth is a growing trend, with many celebrities claiming that the practice provided them with health benefits, including preventing postpartum depression. However, previous studies have shown that consuming human placenta poses risks
for mothers and their babies, including viral and bacterial infections.
"Given the health risks associated with consuming your placenta, and the absence of detectable benefits, we strongly recommend women do not, and instead look to other mental wellness resources," said Austin, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Translational Psychiatric Genomics.
The study also showed that women who consumed their placentas did not have more energy, had no increase in their vitamin B12 levels, and required no less lactation assistance than women who did not consume their placentas.
"BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services' Research Institute helps ensure that decision making in our programs, and in mental health and substance use programs across the province, is evidence-based," said Lynn Pelletier, the VP of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. "Our research scientists are dedicated to carrying out research that improves mental health and substance use outcomes for all British Columbians. High-quality, rigorous studies like this one show how important thorough research is in preventing the spread of misinformation.”
Austin recommends that women who are concerned about postpartum depression speak with their doctor, midwife, or a public health nurse. Additionally, British Columbian women can access services through the Pacific Post Partum Support Society and the Reproductive Mental Health program at BC Children’s Hospital.
Full study available upon request.
BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides a diverse range of specialized and one-of-a-kind tertiary mental health and substance use services across the province, often to vulnerable populations. Our overarching goal is to work with the regional health authorities and other key stakeholders to ensure that everyone in B.C. has access to the specialized mental health services they need, when they need them, regardless of where they live. Recognizing that people with mental health challenges often also have concurrent substance use concerns, the assessment and treatment of substance use issues is an integral part of our programs. In addition to delivering clinical services, our program provides provincial leadership for system-wide improvement through its work in health promotion, illness prevention, knowledge exchange, research and academic teaching.
The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s entrepreneurial spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.
BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services
Provincial Health Services Authority
PHSA media line: 778-867-7472