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.
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