The idea may sound off-putting to many, but about one in three women who have given birth at home choose to eat their own placenta after birth, believing it will help improve their mental health, energy levels and milk production.
The practice, known as placentophagy, has been given a boost with the news that Millie Mackintosh, 32, the former Made In Chelsea star, plans to eat her placenta after her daughter is born in the coming weeks.
The confectionery heiress, who already has a one-year-old daughter, Sienna, announced last week that she plans to have her placenta turned into pills, following in the footsteps of Coleen Rooney and Kim Kardashian.
The idea of consuming the placenta was started in the 1970s by followers of the natural birth movement. Today it is eaten raw in a smoothie, cooked or dehydrated in capsule form. But does science back it up?
Millie Mackintosh, 32, the former Made In Chelsea star, plans to eat her placenta after her daughter is born in the coming weeks. The confectionery heiress, who already has a one-year-old daughter, Sienna, announced last week that she was planning to have her placenta turned into pills, following in the footsteps of Coleen Rooney and Kim Kardashian.
The placenta passes oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood supply, through the umbilical cord, to the baby. It is a complex organ rich in hormones including progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin and lactogen from the human placenta that can promote milk production, as well as vitamins B6 and E, and stem cells.
However, the doses of these hormones and nutrients — and the extent to which they are broken down by cooking or dehydration — are unknown.
Animal studies published in 2012 showed that mammals that eat their placenta bond better with their young. It also raises the new mother’s pain threshold.
A more recent study in the journal Women and Birth in 2017 found that women who took placenta pills experienced small changes in hormone concentrations, including estrogen and progesterone, which may help reduce the rapid drop in these hormones after birth.
Meanwhile, researchers in Nevada in the US have found that placenta pills did almost nothing to improve maternal fatigue or ward off depression.
And a 2019 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, which looked at data from 138 women with a history of mood disorders during pregnancy, found that those who ate their placenta were no more or less likely to have postpartum depression than those who ate their placenta. didn’t. The study saw no benefits in terms of mood, energy or milk production.
But for those who choose to do this, there are multiple websites that tell you how to turn your placenta into a range of meals and snacks.
Or you can call in the professionals, who will come to collect the (refrigerated) placenta shortly after delivery. These ‘placenta remedy specialists’ must be registered with their municipality as food handlers. Then they wash it thoroughly before turning it into remedies.
Carly Lewis is a placenta remedy specialist who has been approved by the Waverley Borough Council in Surrey to work in her own placental kitchen. She is also the president of the Placenta Remedies Network, which represents 59 practitioners around the world.
“I’ve seen for myself the effect that placenta remedies can have on women right after birth,” she says. “The difference was huge and it was great.”
Placentas from women who have been diagnosed with infections should be discarded. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against placenta capsules after a case in 2016 in which a newborn baby developed sepsis after the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules.
Raw placenta smoothies are considered the most potent remedies, but according to a review of internet forums published in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth in 2020, eating placenta pills is by far the most common method of consumption.
To make it into pills, the placenta is steamed and dried before being used to fill capsules – costing around £250.
Mike Bowen, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist based in Wales, suggests that while NHS midwives are now used to dealing with expectant mothers who bring home coolers for their placenta, there are ‘too many ‘what ifs’ to recommend the exercise.
…And do Mick’s light therapy glasses actually work?
What was Sir Mick Jagger wearing on that Miami hotel balcony? The Rolling Stones singer was pictured wearing futuristic light therapy glasses the morning before the band’s last world tour date.
Some thought he was trying to banish the winter blues — light therapy can relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — even though he was in sunny Florida.
In fact, the Re-Timer device is used to reset the biological clock to deal with jet lag. When flying east, you wear the glasses for 60 minutes, three mornings before departure and three days after arrival. If you’re going west, wear them for 60 minutes for three nights before and three days after.
Jet lag is caused by a misalignment between your biological clock and your destination time. Bright light is thought to reset the biological clock and sleep patterns.
The Re-Timer glasses have four LED lights that stimulate the brain’s pineal gland, which is responsible for regulating the body’s clock, their inventor, Professor Leon Lack of Flinders University in Australia, told Good Health. “Our extensive studies have shown that green light, used in the Re-Timer, is one of the most effective wavelengths to speed up or slow down the biological clock.” Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology at Northumbria University, says the principle behind the glasses “makes sense.”
Light suppresses the hormone melatonin – levels usually peak at night preparing the body for sleep. He says that portable devices with a brightness of about 500 lux (a living room is about 200-300 lux) can provide enough light to be effective because they concentrate the light.
A 2015 study published in the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms found that the Re-Timer headset was effective at shifting the biological clock, but some people had headaches and eye irritation. And the glasses aren’t cheap at £189 a pair.