Chrissy Teigen swears by it, but can eating your placenta actually help with postpartum depression?

Chrissy Teigen has been open about her struggles with postpartum depression in the past. [Photo: Getty]
Chrissy Teigen has been open about her struggles with postpartum depression in the past. [Photo: Getty]

Placenta consumption still has to be one the biggest taboos in Western culture. Still, mothers and maternity experts tout its benefits for improving milk production, helping after-birth pain and containing tons of nutrients.

For some women, one of the biggest pros of eating the placenta – or placentophagy, as it’s formally known – is to help with postpartum depression. Chrissy Teigen is in this band, and has recently spoken about her decision to eat the placenta after the birth of her son, Miles.

The model and presenter recently spoke with CBS, saying that she thinks the process helped her avoid postpartum depression, something she has been open about having suffered with after the birth of her first-born, daughter Luna.

“It sounds ridiculous, but people have this belief that if you eat your placenta, it gets all those nutrients that you lost when you were pregnant rather than just losing them immediately and losing that rush of endorphins,” she said.

“By taking these dry placenta pills you can kind of keep this energy up and be weaned off that feeling more.”

But Chrissy isn’t the only one: many believe that consuming the placenta has real benefits for the mental health of mothers. Here’s what we know so far.

Can eating placenta help with postpartum depression?

Many believe that the nutrients in the placenta help to level off your hormones, lowering your chances of postpartum depression, insomnia and increasing energy levels.

The placenta is an organ attached to the lining of the womb during pregnancy which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the baby. The organ can be consumed in a variety of forms, from raw to cooked, however perhaps the most popular method involves drying it, crushing it into capsule form.

Despite tons of testimonials from new mothers, there has been no real evidence to prove that placentophagy has a positive impact on mental health.

What are thought to be other benefits of eating placenta?

Aside from aiding mental health, there are thought to be a ton of other benefits to eating the placenta.

The placenta contains high concentrations of nutrients including fibre, protein, and potassium, and the organ also contains hormones such as estradiol and testosterone.

Some claim placentophagy aids milk production in new mothers, though, again, there is a lack of research in this field.

Aside from improving lactation, some believe placentophagy can act as a treatment for after-birth pain.

Postpartum depression is common in mothers. [Photo: Getty]
Postpartum depression is common in mothers. [Photo: Getty]

What are the negatives of eating placenta?

While science hasn’t yet backed up the pros of eating placenta, it hasn’t found any negatives either. This is except for one case, which caused the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a warning last year.

The warning detailed a case of a newborn who has developed sepsis after the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules that were not heated at the correct temperature to kill of the group B streptococcus bacteria that was found in the pills.

A lack of research

For many, there’s something about placentophagy that still feels very ‘Goop’, and this is down to a lack of research to prove its benefits in a scientific capacity.

Some claim the pricey process (placenta encapsulation is roughly £200 in the UK) is merely offers a placebo effect.

In 2015, a review by researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found there to be insufficient evidence to suggest that eating the placenta provides health benefits for new mothers.

The concluded in their study notes: “Despite the amount of information available to the public on the therapeutic benefits of placentophagy, there is no scientific evidence examining its effects in humans, and the data from animals are inconclusive.

“The health benefits and risks of placentophagy warrant further investigation of the retained contents of the raw, cooked, and encapsulated placenta.”

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