Placentophagy, or the practice of ingesting the placenta after giving birth, has been inching its way into the mainstream. Animals do it, and mothers have been offering testimony that eating the nutrient-rich placenta can have health benefits, including regulating hormones that may cause postpartum depression. Granted, no empirical data exists to prove that this is true—but that hasn’t stopped some mothers from adopting the “what does science know about my body/my child” approach (a philosophy that has yielded less-than-stellar results in other health debates).
Still, no evidence has surfaced showing that placenta-eating causes any harm, so for now it remains a harmless endeavor—and one ripe for media commentary. Take a fringe health pseudo-trend and add a journalist’s personal experience, and you have Joel Stein’s witty Time magazine account of just how the mechanics of eating a placenta go down. Writes Stein:
When the placenta did come out, Cassandra, dazed from 21 hours of labor, somehow made sure the nurses delivered it to us in a flat plastic container, which I put into an ice-filled Monsters vs Aliens cooler I brought….
In a fog, I drove the placenta home, where I wrapped the container in a bag and wrapped that bag in a bag and wrapped that bag in every remaining bag we had in the house.
The next day I drove back to the house to meet the placenta lady, Sara Pereira…By law, Sara has to cook the placenta at the placenta owner’s home. But to my great relief, she brought her own equipment, gloves, sponges and even more detergent than I’d hoped, scrubbing constantly as she worked….
As she steamed the placenta with some herbs, the kitchen got that ironlike smell of cooked organ meat, with vague undertones of a consciousness-raising group and a Betty Friedan rally. Sara said Cassandra had a particularly robust placenta, and she hoped to get 120 pills out of it. As she sliced the cooked organ and put it on parchment paper in a dehydrator, she told me that some people drink the placenta raw as a smoothie. “I do this for a living, and I couldn’t do that,” she said. The pills, she explained, were superior, since Cassandra could stretch their hormone-rich benefits much further, perhaps even freezing some for menopause.
And, of course, such arch details could only be printed under the following headline (which we’re just bummed we didn’t think of ourselves): “Afterbirth: It’s What’s For Dinner.”
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