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Placentophagy (from 'placenta' + Greek φαγειν, to eat; also referred to as placentophagia) is the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth. It's also cropped up among a very small number of particularly nutty circles as a form of alternative medicine. There's also just about no record of the practice ever existing historically in any form other than modern Age of Aquarius woo. Even in the placentophagy tests that have been performed, there isn't any evidence that animals prefer eating the placenta to eating liver given to them by scientists as an alternative. A 2015 review of placentophagy found no evidence of benefit, and there is a risk of consuming bacteria and viruses, particularly if the placenta is not your own.
Eating a favorite meat dish after giving birth probably has the same benefits, such as they are, as placentophagy. The hippie-era Birth Book by Raven Lang (1972) has a lovely recipe for placenta
with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
A liquified placenta that has been buried for several years, sometimes with other drugs, has been used:
“”For head-scabs in children, fevers, ceaseless attack of feverish chills, delirium. Given to quieten a patient whose hair stands up without cause. For constipation. To cure infectious diseases.
Since a human placenta is dead human flesh, any bacteria that grow on it will be the bacteria that devour human flesh; there is a reason we have an instinctual aversion to "recycling".
In 2017, it was reported that an Oregon woman gave her placenta to a dehydrating company that returned to her the desiccated placenta in capsules for her to eat. After eating the capsules, the woman passed along a group B Streptococcus agalactiae infection to her baby, which was also present in the capsules.
A 2017 review in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that any benefits of placentophagy was limited to anecdotal evidence, that there was no scientific evidence of benefit, and that due to the aforementioned risk of passing infection on to the baby, mothers should be discouraged from the practice by physicians.
- Placentophagia in weanling female laboratory rats by Kaitlyn M. Harding & Joseph S. Lonstein Developmental Psychobiology Vol. 56, Issue 6, pp. 1290–1299, September 2014
- Eating placenta 'does not benefit health' June 4, 2015 BBC News.
- Chinese Materia Medica: Animal Drugs by Bernard E. Read (1931). Peking Natural History Bulletin. Based upon the "Pen Ts'ao Kang Mu" [Bencao Gangmu] by Li Shih-Chen [Li Shizhen].
- Notes from the Field: Late-Onset Infant Group B Streptococcus Infection Associated with Maternal Consumption of Capsules Containing Dehydrated Placenta — Oregon, 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR June 30, 2017 / 66(25);677–678.
- CDC Case Report: If You Eat Your Placenta, This Can Happen by Bruce Y. Lee (Jun 30, 2017 @ 06:00 AM) Forbes.
- Human placentophagy: a review by Alex Farr et al. (2017) American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, in press. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.016.