MEDICAL SCIENCE IN THE PAST DECADES HAS MADE incredible progress: many tumors have ceased to be a sentence, cyber prostheses almost indistinguishable from real legs have appeared, it is possible to give birth almost painlessly or to correct myopia with a laser in a matter of minutes . It is all the more surprising that the army of supporters of anti-scientific methods does not give up their positions – these are homeopaths , HIV dissidents , and lactivists who equate the harm of formula milk almost to the harm of heroin. In an effort to “heal with natural remedies,” people spend time and money on superfoods, engage in mindless detox programs , and even eat the placenta after childbirth. We figure out why they do it and whether there is a healthy grain in it.
The placenta is the only temporary organ in the human body; during pregnancy, it serves as a kind of filter, protecting the fetus from the penetration of harmful components. That is why, when discussing medication during pregnancy, it is important whether a particular substance passes through this barrier. The functions of the placenta are protecting the fetus, feeding it, maintaining a stable temperature, delivering oxygen (after all, the baby is not breathing yet) and eliminating decay products. Also, the tissue of the placenta produces hormones that support the normal course of pregnancy.
The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord – that is, a few minutes after birth, when the umbilical cord was cut, the connection is lost, and the placenta is considered to have fulfilled its function. In a maternity hospital or hospital, it is disposed of – ideally in compliance with all sanitary standards, because any biological materials can be dangerous. But now a movement is gaining momentum, which can only be called the worship of the placenta – it is carefully collected, they talk to it, buried in a certain place, make prints and pendants, or take it inside in one form or another.
It is believed that for centuries some peoples of New Zealand, China or Hawaii have done this – however, science refutes it ; nevertheless, placenta worship is coming to the Western world, with all its advanced medicine and modern technology. The hype has not spared celebrities: in 2013, pregnant Kim Kardashian publicly asked the chef if she could cook the placenta. The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik has repeatedly emphasized that all mammals eat the placenta and that its benefits are undeniable. Other well-known fans of the placenta include Alicia Silverstone and, for example, Russian singer Sasha Zvereva. Decent money is earned on the idea of returning to “everything natural”: Instagram is replete with advertisements for placenta capsules – a bottle can cost , for example, 250 British pounds. Amazon sells the Twenty-Five Placenta Dishes cookbook – especially ironic (hopefully) comments like “my guests don’t talk to me anymore “, “why isn’t there a vegan option?” or “only a real baby tastes better.”
The positive effects of eating the placenta include faster recovery after childbirth, increased energy levels, stimulation of milk production and improved hormonal balance. Needless to say, milk synthesis and normalization of hormonal balance occur on their own after childbirth, and it is impossible to conduct a full study of how much the “energy level” has increased after eating the placenta? What is “faster recovery” and how to compare its speed after the same birth, only with and without placental capsules? As usual, if a scientific basis is assumed behind the loud formulations, then it is far-fetched. “The placenta is an endocrine organ, which means it will quickly restore hormonal balance” – somewhere we have already heard about “the treatment of like like like “. The argument that all mammals eat the placenta after giving birth is also not strong enough – according to scientists , this is done in the first place so as not to leave traces for predators.
This is not to say that science is not at all aware of this trend – placentophagy is being actively studied; a detailed review of articles and research on the topic was published last year . According to the authors, although the placenta does contain iron, hormones and nutrients, one cannot speak of their stability either in a raw placenta that has left the human body, and even more so during the cooking process. One of the articles studied reported that most of 189 women had a positive experience of eating the placenta and improved their mood – however, depression after the previous birth, with which the current condition was compared, was not officially diagnosed in many of them, and the author of the study was the founder placenta capsule companies.
There is no current research into how the placenta affects milk synthesis – and the only one cited by advocates of placenta consumption was conducted in 1954 and does not meet current scientific standards. Several animal studies have shown that eating the placenta immediately after childbirth relieves pain by promoting the production of natural opioids. True, this is hardly applicable to the situation of the birth of a child for practical reasons – and is such anesthesia necessary for those who have access to high-quality and safe anesthesia? In terms of women’s reported mood and energy gains, it is very likely that the placebo effect is responsible.
There is no evidence or benefit of placental components in creams and serums. Although cosmetics with placenta have been sold with varying success for about fifty years, there is no scientific basis for any special effects, and advertising traditionally affects the consumer’s emotions: “What’s good for a baby is good for you.” Some doctors even express doubts about the safety of such creams: it is not known what effects the residual amounts of hormones can have if they remain active. The authors of the official toxicological report emphasize that there is no evidence of the safety of placenta derivatives in cosmetics – and if they are used, they should be as purified as possible and devoid of any activity.
Even worse, the placenta as a dietary supplement is not only useless, but also unsafe – it is non-sterile and can contain a wide variety of bacteria and viruses. In addition, as a protective function of the fetus, it can accumulate harmful elements such as cadmium, mercury or lead. Capsules are often made in home laboratories without adhering to any dietary supplement standards – and the companies providing these services are not regulated by official health authorities.
Less than a month ago, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report on a severe streptococcal infection in a newborn – the source of infection was placenta capsules taken by the mother. Fortunately, the child survived after several courses of antibiotics. According to experts, the temperature to which the placenta is heated during the manufacture of capsules is simply not enough to destroy dangerous microorganisms. Unfortunately, placentophagy is not another harmless hobby of celebrities and instagram bloggers – it can cause serious harm, including to a small child.