Eating placenta could do more harm than good, experts warn

Woman drinking smoothie

It’s been hailed as a superfood with the power to boost milk production, but new mothers are being warned that the stomach-churning practice of eating the placenta after birth could do more harm than good

After giving birth, many women crave the things they’ve been denied for months – brie, pâté, sushi – maybe even some gin. But for some, one of their first meals is their own placenta; fried, roasted or raw.

The placenta does many important jobs during pregnancy, when it develops in the mother’s womb. It passes oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and plays a crucial role in removing waste products from the baby. It’s no wonder really that it’s been long lauded and revered by many cultures.

In recent years, it’s been described as a ‘superfood’ that boosts milk production, prevents post-natal depression and aids pregnancy recovery. But doctors are now warning that eating it could, in fact, be dangerous.

Earlier this year, the US Department for Health issued a statement warning against the practice after a newborn baby developed life-threatening blood poisoning, passed on from its mother when she took bacteria-contaminated pills containing her placenta. And now, leading gynaecologist Dr Alex Farr has said that eating the placenta straight after birth provides no health boost – instead, it borders on cannibalism.

Dr Farr added that presumed nutrients like iron, selenium and zinc are not present in high concentrations in the placenta – on the contrary, worryingly high concentrations of heavy metals could accumulate in the placenta during pregnancy.

“Medically speaking, the placenta is a waste product,” he said. “After the placenta is genetically part of the newborn, eating the placenta borders on cannibalism.”

The act has been popularised by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Coleen Rooney, but in the new research published in the American Journal of Obestrics and Gynecology, Dr Farr concluded that there were no clinical benefits to eating the placenta and that women should be discouraged from doing it.

So now new mothers can return to worrying about when the doorbell will ring and the small task of errr, bringing up a child.