In 2015, researchers at Northwestern University School of Medicine reviewed 10 published studies on the practice and they found no data to show that consuming the placenta provided any protection against postpartum depression, decreased post-delivery pain, increased energy or increased milk protection.
Until now, we have been telling patients that whether to eat the placenta or not remains a personal decision and advised caution in circumstances of an active intrauterine infection or meconium (baby poop). However, a recent case of one Oregon mother and her newborn has the CDC and NIH, among other health-related organizations, strongly discouraging mothers from consuming their placenta.
In 2016, an Oregon mother gave birth to a healthy baby after an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Shortly after birth, the baby was admitted to the NICU with GBS bacteremia. This is a fancy way of saying this bacteria was present in the baby's blood stream. GBS bacteremia is a very serious infection, which is still the leading cause of death in infants as it can be lethal in 5-6% of cases (roughly 1 in 20 cases). As a side note, this is why your ObGyn will test you for carrier status of GBS in the third trimester. The baby was treated with antibiotics for 11 days and discharged home. Five days after discharge, the baby was re-admitted with the same blood infection. While the doctors were trying to figure out how the baby became re-infected, they noticed that the mother was taking placenta pills. As stated earlier, there are many companies that will dehydrate and pulverize your placenta into capsules. When the researchers examined the pills, they found that the strain of GBS in the pills was the same one that had infected the baby. Since there is no oversight of the processing of placenta pills, there is no way to know what’s inside the pills and what goes on during the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, this leaves women and their babies susceptible to infection and possibly other toxins.
With no proven benefits and potentially deadly side effects for newborns, we would strongly caution against ingestion of placenta capsules after delivery and, at this time, are in favor of siding with the CDC and NIH in advising against eating the placenta after delivery.