Typically, the placenta is discarded after a baby is delivered. But some women (including, reportedly, celebs January Jones and Alicia Silverstone) are choosing to take it home to have it dehydrated and made into pills or capsules to consume; some doulas offer this service. There are claims the practice, called placentophagy, reduces the risk of postpartum depression and replenishes nutrients extracted from the body during pregnancy, among other health benefits.
What do doctors make of this? Calgary obstetrician Dr. Jaelene Mannerfeldt, a member of The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, says there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. What’s more, there are risks: The tissue is not screened for viruses or pathogens, and there is little control over the environment in which the capsules are produced. This past September, a pharmacy in Courtenay, B.C., was shut down after health inspectors found human placenta pills were being prepared in unsterile conditions. ‘Who knows what other substances the placenta may have been exposed to in the process of being baked and powderized’or if you’re even getting back your own placenta?’ questions Mannerfeldt. ‘That doesn’t sound very healthy to me.’