This morning, I got into a short debate with a friend of mine on my Facebook Freethinker’s page. [I want to note that I value this friend’s opinion greatly and I am trying to be as objective as possible. I don’t wish to insult her – even if I strongly disagree with her on this subject.] I had shared an article that apparently states there is no health benefit to a mother eating her child’s afterbirth. I didn’t read the article, nor am I going to because I think the title said enough for me to share my opinion – that opinion being that it is a disgusting practice and people who do so should just admit that they like doing crazy shit.
***aaaaaand here come the rolling eyes and the enraged banter***
So, now that I have thoroughly pissed off some of you, I will admit that I STILL have not read that particular article and I STILL have no intention to do so – only simply because I said I wouldn’t and I am a stubborn bastard. I have, however, gone on to read several other articles on the subject and I will share them at the appropriate points in this post.
Now, lets start this off correctly by my own admission that I am not a scientist. I am not attempting to pass myself off as a journalist or even as a person who is anything more than someone who enjoys absorbing new information and discussing(/debating) the finer points of the information I find. Frankly, I wouldn’t even call myself a blogger. If any of you have followed this blog for any extended period of time, you already know that I am inconsistent on here at BEST. This article is simply my personal opinion based on the limited information I have found on this subject. *Please remember this statement because I will be returning to it later.*
With that being said, let’s really get into this. Since the beginning of time, land animals have been eating the placentas almost immediately after birthing their children. Whether it be a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore doesn’t matter – they all do it. I don’t know about whales, porpoises or any other sea mammal, so I’m not going to get into that. For the sake of this discussion, we are going to stick to land mammals. Anyway, as far as we know, humans are one of a very small handful of mammals that does NOT routinely eat their afterbirth. Has this always been the case? Possibly not. In the days of nomadic people, when the species was still young and ignorant to the idea of building homesteads, it may have been a necessity to get rid of the placenta as quickly as possible to keep predators from catching the scent of blood and raw flesh. As far as any study can show, that is the only reason that other mammals do it as well. Since people started domesticating lands and building houses where we are protected from predators, we no longer have the worries of having to immediately remove that threat. We are already safe and secure inside protective walls. This should be the biggest red flag. We are more protected than any other species and the vast majority of us do not practice this act of eating placenta.
From what I have read, I have learned a few assumptions about the practice of placentophagy (the act of eating afterbirth). It is believed that this act helps the uterus return to normal size, that is eases postpartum depression and that it helps stimulate milk production. Lets look at these one at a time:
The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandins which can help control inflammation when produced normally in the body. There is no study that shows ingesting these does anything to increase the amount needed to return your uterus to a normal size. We do, however, know that most women who don’t eat placenta have had no issues with their uterus returning to normal.
Lets skip ahead to milk production for now. I’m not even going to cite any particular study on this one. I’m just rolling on pure common sense. My children’s mothers had no problem producing milk. My mother and my sister had no problems producing milk. My grandmothers, aunts and cousins have not had any problems producing milk. And not one of them has ever eaten a placenta. They would probably look at you like you were a lunatic if you ever suggested to them that is what is needed to stimulate milk production. Don’t be ridiculous. Moving on…
Now, to touch on the one point that I hold some actual value in – postpartum depression. So far from what I’ve read, placentaphogy does actually have one benefit for those who engage in it – they feel better and feel closer to their baby. That’s cool. I can dig that. If that’s what it takes for less women to drown their kids or wrap them in a bag and throw them in a dumpster, then I’m on board – give placenta pills to every woman. Here’s the kicker, though – there is no proof that this is anything more than a placebo effect. This is an act that is more of a spiritual nature. It gives the mother something they can share immediately with this child, that only moments before, had been a bit like a parasite, feasting on her own body’s nutrients and wreaking havoc on her system. This child who she had felt growing inside of her and had most likely developed a close personal bond with. This child that she has at some points never wanted to separate from her body, but at others wanted nothing more than to get it out of her as soon as possible. Yes, there are so many understandably conflicting emotions that I, as a man, will never experience. So, yes I can see how a woman who is very open to alternative medicine and spiritual guidance can feel much more connected with her child by eating the afterbirth. I won’t knock you for that. That is a noble gesture.
…but lets not pretend it is anything more than gesture.
As of yet, there is no study proving that eating your placenta has any true physical benefits. I have actually read that eating too much of it can cause jitters and nervousness – which probably goes back to a more animalistic self-preservation attribute of having to be on heightened alert for predators after giving birth. The potential benefits for eating your placenta are based solely in your own beliefs, desires and opinions. So, let’s just be honest with each other, shall we? I already admitted that since there isn’t any proof that there aren’t physical benefits to eating a placenta, this entire post is mostly based on my opinion, you should also be adult enough to admit that it is also your opinion that there are. Yes, I do know that it is a growing trend for women to do this, but a trend is nothing more than that – an idea that people latch on to because someone else told them it was cool, safe, fun or the ‘in’ thing to do. A large group of people can have an opinion together and that doesn’t make them right. It just makes them equally uninformed and/or gullible.
This subject parallels religion vs. Atheism arguments. I’m sure some of you will insist that I am wrong and you have the right to state that, but I will honestly say that we do not yet have proof one way or the other, so we will simply have to agree to disagree until a definitive study shows us which person is correct.
Until then, go ahead and eat your nasty ass afterbirth. I’m not stopping you. It’s your right to do as you wish. But don’t claim that there are any real health benefits to doing so because you simply cannot prove there is.
For anyone who would still like to know how to eat your nasty afterbirth, information can be found at these sources:
Here are some of the articles that I found any information that is not already linked in the above text: