Leading Nursing Journal Explores Health Effects on Women Who Consume Placenta After Giving Birth
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Washington, DC – February 25, 2016 – A growing number of women in the United States are choosing to consume their placentas after birth to achieve presumed physical and mental health benefits. However, strong scientific evidence to support these beneficial health claims is lacking, and the effect on women’s health is relatively unknown.
In “Consumption of the Placenta in the Postpartum Period,” Emily Hart Hayes, CNM, DNP, WHNP, explores the practice of placentophagy, or consumption of the placenta, and reviews evidence of the reported health benefits. Hayes’ article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN).
Interestingly, almost all mammals consume their placentas; humans are one of the few exceptions. Women who do consume their placentas may have the raw or cooked placenta prepared for placement into capsules or they may swallow raw or frozen pieces whole or blend them with food or juice.
Proponents of placenta consumption claim it replenishes vital nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins, and hormones to improve symptoms of fatigue and postpartum depression in women. Other reported health benefits include improved mood, energy, and increased milk supply. In a survey of 189 women, 40% reported improved mood, 26% described increased energy and decreased fatigue, 15% believed they had improved lactation, and 7% reported decreased postpartum vaginal bleeding.
While more scientific research needs to be done to support these claims, evidence also suggests that the practice can pose serious health risks. By ingesting raw or improperly cooked/dried placental tissue, women can expose themselves to harmful toxins and increase their risk for infection. Since no state or federal regulations exist that address safety issues, placental tissue can become contaminated by unsafe handling. It can transmit diseases or dangerous pathogens, such as HIV or hepatitis virus.
Many women and their families are unaware of the issues surrounding this practice. Given the rise of placenta consumption during the postpartum period, health care providers should be aware of the potential health benefits as well as the associated risks. They should also know how placentas are being prepared and consumed and understand how these options can affect women and their families.
“More research needs to be done to investigate the potential benefits and risks that may be associated with the practice of placentophagy,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “Nurses are in an excellent position to better counsel women so they can make informed decisions about consuming placenta.”
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Yakesha Cooper for AWHONN
The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. JOGNN is online at jognn.awhonn.org
Since 1969, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women's health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at www.awhonn.org.