We hope you aren’t eating anything at the moment because we are going to discuss a rising fad among new moms – namely, eating placenta (also called Placentophagia). Recent articles in Parenting and NY Magazine are talking about this tasty new snack that mothers are preparing on the kitchen stove.
Just to reacquaint you: the placenta is an organ that connects the fetus to the uterine wall, using the umbilical cord. It allows transfer of nutrients to the baby, removal of wastes, and it also filters out toxins. It truly is an amazing piece of tissue.
After childbirth, what happens to the placenta usually depends on the culture the mother is a part of. Typically, it’s incinerated, since it’s considered to be biohazardous waste. Sometimes, people will take the placenta and bury it in the ground – the Maori culture of New Zealand does this, since the Maori word whenua means both “land” and “placenta.” For the Maori, the earth is the womb for all of us. This practice is also done by the Navajo, Cambodians, Hawaiians, Malaysians, Costa Ricans, etc.
There’s a growing number of women who take it a step further. They are practicing placentophagia. Eating placenta is not uncommon in nature – almost all mammals do it. Placenta does have lots of supplements in it – B-12, iron, hormones. It is believed that these supplements make the new mother stronger and increase her production of milk.
As you might expect, a new “profession” has arisen out of this. Jennifer Mayer, 28, calls herself a professional placenta-preparer. She takes placentas and turns them into capsules, dried and ground up. She calls them “happy pills.”
A woman named Alexa Beckham started Ruby Tree Birth, an afterbirth-encapsulation service. You can turn your tasty placenta into a capsule for $250. When Alexa’s baby was born, she threw her placenta into a mixer with coconut water and a banana. And she loved it.
Incidentally, “placenta” has its roots in Latin, which means “cake.” So now it’s ok to eat it! Yum!
Finally, in China, hospitals will sell placentas to buyers who make soup out of them. One guy buys them from hospitals in the thousands and sells them online (illegally). Traditional Chinese medicine has been known to make use of the organ, which is said to be protein-rich and useful for improving circulation of the blood.