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New Moms, Go Ahead and Put Down the Placenta

Photograph by Twenty20

If you ever wake up annoyed with yourself that you used the placenta after your baby's birth for keepsake jewelry instead of an afternoon snack, you can finally rest easy.

An obstetrician-led panel of health experts at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center looked into all things placenta and found that whether it's put into pills or made into shakes or a lasagna (yes, really, lasagna), the health benefits of consuming placenta are nil. This comes a couple of months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a breastfeeding newborn developed a severe blood infection after its mother kept ingesting contaminated placenta capsules.

There are those who have believed that consuming placenta could reduce the risk of postpartum depression, increase energy levels and milk production, and generally help recover following childbirth. There are others still who assert that placenta consumption could "eradicate infections," including Zika and HIV, even though the CDC recommends avoiding placenta capsule consumption specifically because of its proven inability to eradicate "infectious substances."

Inadequate heating and preparation of the placenta also might be insufficient to eradicate viruses such as HIV, hepatitis or Zika. That's according to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which also advises doctors to stop turning a blind eye and go so far as to warn new moms against eating placenta.

"As obstetricians, it's important to tell the truth. And the truth is it's potentially harmful and there's no evidence it's beneficial, so therefore, don't do it," Dr. Amos Grunebaum, the study's author and an obstetrician/gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said.

The placenta's job is to act as a conduit for air and nutrients between the mom and her fetus. Once the baby is born, the placenta's job is terminated. At that point, what humans eat—new moms included—"should be based on scientific information, not on wishful thinking and other thoughts that are not clearly outlined," Grunebaum said.

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