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USA Today Examines Practice Of Ingesting Placenta To Mitigate Postpartum Depression

Armen Hareyan's picture

USA Todayon Thursday examined the practice known as placentophagy, in which theplacenta of a pregnant woman is saved, dried and emulsified, thenplaced in gelatin capsules and taken by the mother in the months afterchildbirth. Hospitals usually store placentas for a few days to allowfor testing if there is a postpregnancy complication but then destroythem, according to USA Today. Some hospitals regardplacentas as "hazardous medical waste" and are reluctant to let womenkeep them, while other hospitals allow women to keep the organ, USA Today reports.

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According to USA Today,the practice of ingesting placenta "is far from widespread" and hasbeen received with "great skepticism by more traditional medicalexperts." However, a "small but vocal contingent" of pregnant women andadvocates "strongly" believe that the placenta is "rich in chemicalsthat can help mitigate fluctuations in hormones believed to causepostpartum depression," USA Today reports.

"Ifeel that it is what we as women are meant to do with the placenta,"Jodi Selander -- who provides the encapsulation service at no cost toclients and is collecting testimonials of women who have ingestedplacenta for her Web site placentabenefits.Info -- said, adding that other mammals eat their placentas. Mark Kristal -- a professor at State University of New York-Buffalo,who focused his 1971 doctoral dissertation on why animals eat theirplacentas -- said, "People can believe what they want, but there's noresearch to substantiate claims of human benefit." He added, "Thecooking process will destroy all the protein and the hormones. ...Drying it out or freezing it would destroy other things."

Selander said she has sought FDAguidance but received no clear answers. FDA spokesperson Kris Mejiasaid the agency considers some statements on Selander's Web site to beunsubstantiated medical claims and will be reviewing the matter. "Humanplacental capsules that make treatment claims ... must be accompaniedby well-designed and controlled clinical studies to supportapproval/licensure," Mejia wrote in an e-mail (Friess, USA Today, 7/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.