Placenta pills don’t work, study suggests
Eating the placenta after birth offers no benefit to new mothers, a new study suggests.
Research in Nevada found the increasingly common practice of consuming capsules made from the organ in the weeks following birth did almost nothing to improve maternal fatigue or ward off depression.
The work did show that ingesting placenta capsules produced small but detectable changes in hormone concentrations, but it is not known whether this has any beneficial effect.
Advocates of the practice point to widespread maternal placentophagy - eating the placenta - in the animal kingdom, however official bodies such as the Royal College of Midwives do not recommend it, saying their is no evidence of any benefit.
The new study involved 12 women who took placenta capsules and 15 who took placebo pills in the weeks after giving birth.
Researchers tested the efficacy of placenta capsules in promoting various health benefits, including stemming the onset of postpartum ‘baby blues’ and depression of new mothers.
The results of the study, published in the online journal Women and Birth, found that such claims are not clearly supported.
However the work did show that ingesting placenta capsules produced small but detectable changes in hormone concentrations that show up in a mother’s circulating hormone levels.
Increasing number of private firms are offering to convert women’s placentas into capsules, some for around £200.
They advertise a range of benefits including returning the uterus to a pre-pregnancy size sooner, and better weight management.
In 2016, the Nevada team released a study showing that consuming encapsulated placentas was not as good of a source of iron as proponents had suggested.
Senior author Professor Daniel Benyshek suggested that both advocates and sceptics alike may point to these new results.
He said: “Placentophagy supporters may point to the fact that we did see evidence that many of the hormones detected in the placenta capsules were modestly elevated in the placenta group mums.
“Similarly for sceptics, our results might be seen as proof that placentophagy doesn’t ‘really work’ because we did not find the type of clear, robust differences in maternal hormone levels or postpartum mood between the placenta group and placebo group that these types of studies are designed to detect.”
Last year Coleen Rooney drew attention to the practice when she tweeted images of her placenta pills.
Defending as placentophagy “not gross or witchcrafty”, she said: “I was never depressed or sad or down after the baby was born, so I’d highly suggest it to any pregnant woman.”
In October an Austrian expert condemned eating placentas as “essentially cannibalism”.
Dr. Alex Farr, from Vienna University, said the organ was genetically part of the baby.