Dear Bundoo: Should I eat my placenta?
One mom-to-be is considering eating her placenta because her husband says there are health benefits. Another mom has a house full of reptiles and isn’t sure how to tell her husband to get rid of them before the arrival of their baby. See what our doctors have to say.
I’m about to have my baby, and my husband and I are fighting about the placenta. He wants to do placenta encapsulation. He says that it’s only natural, and most mammals eat the placenta and that it will help our daughter’s immune system. I tried telling him that’s not true, but he’s convinced and really putting pressure on me. I really, really don’t want anything to do with the placenta. Just the thought of it grosses me out. But is there anything possibly dangerous if he gets me to do this? Can it hurt me or the baby if we do encapsulation?
Dear Grossed Out,
Interesting question! Placenta encapsulation is the practice of cleaning, dehydrating, and then consuming your placenta in the days and weeks following birth. Typically it’s cooked, dried, and ground into a powder then put into little medicine capsules or added to things like smoothies. It has become en vogue in the recent months but has been in practice in certain cultures for thousands of years, according to those who champion placenta encapsulation. It’s being touted as a panacea for everything from postpartum bleeding to milk production to baby blues.
While it’s true that some mammals eat their placentas, it’s not actually true that MOST do. Those that do often do so to protect their newborns from predators. At this time, there are no good clinical studies examining the safety or efficacy of placenta encapsulation. We cannot say for sure that cooking and drying it will remove the bacteria that attach to the placenta during delivery. Similarly, we cannot say that it will help with bleeding, milk supply, or postpartum depression.
While a quick Internet search will find testimonials regarding all of the above, we don’t know if it’s scientifically true. It’s quite possible that the placebo effect is in place. It’s also possible that the simple act of doing something so deliberate for a new mother’s health makes her feel supported, which goes a long way to help in the weeks following delivery. At this time, there is no medical reason for me to advise you to do placenta encapsulation. Instead, I would focus on eating and drinking well, taking prenatal multivitamins if your doctor or midwife suggests them, asking for help with meals and chores, and resting whenever possible.
—Answered by Dr. Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Bundoo Pediatrician
When I first married my husband, he was really into reptiles as pets. I didn’t care all that much, except thinking they’re terrible pets, but now that we’re about to have a baby I keep reading that reptiles can spread salmonella and other diseases. He’s got a tortoise, an iguana, and a few snakes. He’s super attached to his pets, so I don’t know how to tell him that I don’t want a baby in a house full of diseased reptiles. How much do I really have to worry about diseases?
—Not a Reptile House
Dear Not a Reptile House,
You are right to be concerned about a house full of reptiles when you are about to bring home a new baby. As you know, reptiles can harbor Salmonella, a type of bacteria that can make your little one very sick. Salmonella can cause fever and bloody diarrhea. In infants, young children, and people with immune problems, the infection can be much more serious, leading to blood infections and meningitis. The Salmonella bacteria is easily spread from reptiles to humans by coming into contact with the bacteria then ingesting it. Your new baby could easily become infected if your husband handled your little one after touching the reptiles.
You should let your husband know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that reptiles and amphibians be kept out of households that include children under 5 years old. In fact, they recommend that these reptiles should be removed from a home before even bringing home an infant. Hopefully these CDC recommendations will show your husband just how serious it can be to have reptiles in the same house as an infant. And while he is really attached to his pets now, this bond won’t even compare to the love he will feel when you bring home your new little one. If he understands the risks involved in having reptiles in the home, chances are he will choose his new baby over his beloved lizards and snakes! Best of luck!
—Answered by Kristie Rivers, MD, FAAP, Bundoo Pediatrician
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