The CDC recently published a case study where a newborn baby’s infection was linked to the mother’s consumption of placenta pills.
Maybe you’ve heard how some moms are eating their placentas? Kim Kardashian did it. So did January Jones and Gaby Hoffman. They say it helped save them from postpartum depression.
Usually, when women do this, they’re not outright eating the placenta; they’re turning it into pills. Well, we wanted to know more about how the placenta, which sustains a baby inside the womb, goes from raw organ to pill—and if those pills even work. So, as part of our Childless Men series, we invited Radiolab’s Latif Nasser (above) to come take a class in placenta pill-making, aka placenta encapsulation. Though Latif knew nothing about placentas, he has a PhD in the history of medicine, so we figured he’d have some illuminating thoughts on this baffling practice.
Doula Amethyst Herstens has a business making placenta pills, among other placenta things, and she came out to walk us through the process. (And, heads up: there are pictures of placenta in this post. Nothing too gory but, y’know, it’s placenta.)
Amethyst brought along her giant tub of stuff, and put Latif to work.
First, Latif made a placenta print with food coloring—which some moms hang on their walls. Then he made the pills. Here are some of the steps along the way. That heart-shaped thing is the umbilical cord. Amethyst dehydrates that as a keepsake for her clients.
Here’s the thing about placenta consumption. There’s very little research on it. And the research that exists doesn’t tell us much. Join us, as Latif and the LST staff try to make sense of this growing postpartum trend.
P.S. If you’re interested in the history of cultural practices and rituals around the placenta, check out this fascinating paper. Don’t worry, it’s not gross.
And if you want to hear Latif Nasser talk about the man who gave us modern pain relief (yep, it’s inspired by labor pains!), check out this video:
Have you ingested YOUR placenta?
Did you feel anything? Or not? Share your experience, down in the comments.