The American baby industry is a behemoth. It’s not just diapers and products like Baby Einstein or Your Baby Can Read, either. Retailers target new moms — and one product, “100% natural” placenta pills, is attracting considerable skepticism. Are placenta pills a helpful diet supplement or a scam?
If you’ve never heard of them before, placenta pills are a modern version of a practice that’s been around in cultures for thousands of years — eating the placenta after delivering a baby. Some woman swear by the practice. But medical doctors are skeptical if placenta pills have any legitimate health benefits and suspect the product may be another nutrition supplement scam.
Scientific Benefits Feeble at Best
Consuming the placenta after giving birth is not without cultural or historical basis. Karen Palumbo, of the Doula Association of Central Oklahoma, told Yahoo! Shine, “It’s a natural method, it’s our body healing… It’s something that’s been around for thousands of years.”
Today, women have the option of taking placenta pills rather than the far less palatable “placenta smoothie,” or simple cooking-and-eating (which are probably closer to the practice that’s been around for thousands of years.)
And while medical and psychological issues after childbirth can be serious and widespread, there’s virtually no scientific research on eating placenta as a treatment. So it’s hard to say either way if we’re looking at an all-natural cure, or an expensive scam. And expensive it is – as Yahoo! Shine reports:
The pills usually cost a couple of hundred dollars and take 24 hours to make. Typically, the placenta is collected from the hospital after delivery and then steamed and/or dehydrated before being put into gel capsules.
Some medical doctors take issue with that steaming/drying process, arguing that it may destroy any hormones or nutrients that would be gained from eating the placenta.
Devotees Still Swear by Placenta Pills
Doctors may be dubious, but there’s a small but vocal contingent of women who swear by the process.
Recently, Kim Kardashian’s statement that she was going to eat her placenta was a plot point on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, though reports aren’t clear if she went through with it after the birth of her daughter.
One woman profiled in Yahoo! Shine’s feature, Julia Rodriguez, certainly claims the placenta pills ease the medical and psychological issues many new moms face after giving birth.
Anecdotal support aside, Doctor Harvey J. Klinman, MD, PhD, would rather new moms consult a physician if they’re suffering from high blood pressure, postpartum depression, or other issues:
He says that a mother who has no major health issues shouldn’t experience negative effects from the pills, but “it’s a homeopathic neutral nothing. You may as well eat Tums or just make anything up.”
He’s more concerned about women who are struggling with postpartum depression and turn to the pills as a cure, when they should instead be seeking medical help.
All in all, it seems support is anecdotal, and scientific research is scarce. Placenta pills are almost certainly harmless but possibly useless, and they’re definitely expensive. Consumers are likely better off saving their money.
But what do you think? Have you or any of the new moms in your life ever taken placenta pills after giving birth? Share you thoughts with us in the comments.