Healthy Living: Doctors warn new moms about eating placenta after birth

Call it what you will, but doctors say a new trend has some moms eating their placenta after birth.

Dr. Elizabeth Meade stopped by the Q13 studios to talk to Marni Hughes about why moms are doing this, the benefits and the health risks.

Who is doing this and why? 

We're seeing it much more commonly.  When I trained 10 years ago this was something a few people did or would ask about, but now with celebrities doing it, moms and dads are just wondering about benefits and just asking their doctors about it.

In what form are they consuming placenta?

In all different ways.  There actually are placenta cookbooks, but most people have it dehydrated and encapsulated and put into pills or smoothies.

What are the health benefits?

I will say we have no good evidence, scientifically proven evidence about any proven benefit but some of the thoughts is since the placenta contains a lot of progesterone and estrogen there are thoughts it could potentially decrease the risks of postpartum depression or help new moms with milk supply.

What are the risks?

Mostly we worry about infection.  Certainly viral infection can be transmitted that way, HIV, hepatitis, those types of things.  Luckily most moms in the U.S. are tested for those during pregnancy but other infections like Zika could be transmitted this way as well.   We have had a report of a newborn baby in the last few months who contracted a bacterial infection called group-B strep because mom had ingested the placenta and this placenta was actually infected with this bacteria.  So there are real risks to moms and to babies.

 Is this something a mom decides before birth that she wants to do?

I think lots of moms are looking into it, they're having conversations, they're getting a lot of information on-line.  I would really encourage moms to not only talk to their doctor or mid-wife about the risks and benefits, but if you're considering doing it, to talk to the person who is going to be preparing it for you.  We've heard some real horror stories about people who work in placenta encapsulation facilities who are not actually cleaning the equipment between patients so you may have someone else's placenta instead of your own so it's really important to ask about preparation and sterilization procedures with the person who is going to be doing the encapsulating.

Are there other uses for placenta?

Some people bury it in the yard under a tree or a plant that they want to get nourishment from the placenta.  It's really the only other mainstream use that we're seeing.  But most moms, when they give birth, the placenta stays and is discarded at the hospital if they don't take it home.