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In smoothie, pill and tincture form are all ways that a mother can consume her newborn's placenta, and there's been plenty of debate about whether it's actually beneficial to ingest some form of the organ. There's even a word for it—placentophagy.
But a new paper reviewing 10 previously published studies suggests that there isn't any substantial research to support the idea that placentophagy for humans is actually beneficial—or even safe, according to Newsweek. Analysis of the human placenta has found the tissue can contain toxins such as mercury, lead and bacteria. The paper, published in the Archives of Women's Mental Health, suggests that the few studies that do exist on placentophagy are poorly designed and not reliable enough to support a women eating placentas.
Yet new moms are still eating placentas, and there are even people who specialize in helping make it happen. Alyson Tina, a high school math teacher, told Newsweek that her positive personal experience with placentophagy compelled her to become certified at placenta encapsulation.
"I really felt that it helped take the edge off," Tina said of her decision to consume her own afterbirth, which she took in pill form to make the concept "a little more palatable."
It takes two days to encapsulate a placenta, and it must be done before the organ is three days old. The placenta is typically stored in the refrigerator or freezer, then it's cooked using a steamer, after which it is sliced up and left to dry overnight. The next day a food processor is used to grind down the remains into powder form, which is placed in water-soluble capsules. One human placenta usually yields about 100 capsules.
"It's totally possible that [the positive effects are] a placebo, but I kind of feel like it doesn't matter if I can help a woman get through a time that is difficult," Tina said. "We've had clients experience increased breast milk production. They feel that they might physically heal faster."
While it's still up for debate whether or not placentas are beneficial for humans to ingest, rest assured that women around the word are still eating them.