Some moms hope placenta pills can ward off baby blues
CTV News.ca Staff
Published Sunday, August 7, 2011 10:04PM EDT
For most women, the placenta is something that is quickly disposed of after birth. But for others, it's a nutritious organ they're choosing to consume in the form of pills.
One of those mothers is Safire Naranjo. She had expected to suffer mood swings and fatigue after delivering her baby six weeks ago; instead, she says he's been happy and energetic. She believes much of the credit goes to capsules she had created just for her using dried parts of her own placenta.
Naranjo feels strongly that the nutrients in the organ that once supplied blood and nourishment to her baby are the reason why she hasn't slipped into postpartum depression.
"It was a shocking difference between the day I didn't take the pill and the day I did take the pill," she tells CTV News. "As soon as I started taking them, I slept better, I felt less anxious. I felt in a better mood," she says.
The idea of making use of the placenta is not new. Some cultures make a ritual of burying the placenta, and the mothers of many other mammals lick off their newborn's afterbirth and then eat the placenta.
To let the placenta go to waste seems a shame to Naranjo.
"It is an amazing organ that you grow only when you are growing a baby, and it is special and an important medicine," she says.
Because the placenta produces estrogen and progesterone, some believe that ingesting it can help to restore levels of the pregnancy hormones that plummet after delivery.
Few studies have ever examined whether there are any health benefits of human "placentophagy," as the practice of eating the placenta is called. Nevertheless, a number of mothers are interested in trying it.
But not all are comfortable with the idea of eating it "fresh." That's where dried placenta capsules come in.
Rean Cross is one of a number of women who will process placentas into edible pills. The birth coach and postpartum doula believes the pills are highly nutritious.
"Things like increased energy, better sleep more patience with older children, increased milk production, decreased risk of baby blues," she says, listing off the purported benefits.
Cross offers a service in which she will take a placenta, boil it and then dry it. Once it's fully dried, she then grinds it into a fine powder that's put into capsules.
Rean admits the idea might sound strange to some.
"The whole concept of placentas tends to gross people out," she says.
"People will start making jokes and will start saying ‘Eeww…' When you start talking about consuming placenta, that is a whole new level of taking people out of their comfort zone."
But she adds: "It's not until people have seen the capsules that they say, ‘Oh, maybe that is something I can do."
The number of women who choose to ingest encapsulated placentas is thought to be small, but Cross says her practice is growing through word of mouth.
"The demand is small but growing. I haven't done anything to advertise and women are finding me," she says.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip