Eating your own placenta may seem like a health adventure, but it could turn out to be an enormous legal hassle.
For many women, eating the placenta after birth is the most normal thing in the world. A surprising number of celebrities have done it — Kourtney Kardashian and January Jones included –proving that placentophagy (the practice of eating the placenta) is becoming a much more normal, talked about thing that it once was.
However commonplace it may be, the legal requirements surrounding eating your own placenta may make it a bit harder to actually do than you’d think. Weird, considering it’s your own, right?
Jordan Thiering, a woman from Mississippi, found herself dealing with a legal nightmare after she told her doctor she wanted to turn her placenta into capsules for later consumption. The doctor told her to check with the hospital, and the hospital informed her that she needed to obtain a court order if she wanted to do so. This is standard practice in most hospitals as the placenta is considered “non-infectious medical waste.”
Finally, after a long legal process, Mrs. Thiering was given the court order and permission to encapsulate her placenta on May 17th. This could be the beginning of an increasing number of women obtaining court orders to turn their placentas into capsules. But the whole point of eating your own placenta is to theoretically repair the damage done by birthing and to replenish lost nutrients. A long, drawn out legal battle sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
The practice of placentophagy is a very common one in the animal kingdom. Many species of animals do so –rodents, carnivores, and primates among them (possibly your own mom) –as the high levels of prostaglandin in the placenta are believed to help the uterus return to its normal pre-pregnancy size. In essence, the prostaglandins help to clean out the uterus, and the oxytocin in the placenta helps to reduce post-partum stress. The placenta can also help to promote healthy milk production.
If you subscribe to placenta-eating, that is.
However, all of these effects have been noticed in ANIMALS, with very few studies actually examining their benefits for the human body. A 2015 analysis compared the findings of 10 different studies in order to determine whether or not the placenta could actually provide these benefits to human. The discovery was simply that, “They found no data to support the common claims that eating the placenta either raw, cooked, or encapsulated offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding, or replenishes iron in the body.”
Worse still, there have been no studies examining what, if any, health risks eating your own placenta may pose. As with any internal tissue, there is always the risk of side effects or negative repercussions when consuming your own flesh. Let that sentence sink in. Consuming your own flesh. But I guess it’s kind of like farming, in the reap what you sow kind of way.
The fact that you need a court order to encapsulate your placenta may not be the best indicator of the danger of the practice. While I’m unable to speak for everyone, I’m fairly certain most people can’t call themselves microbe-free and claim the ability to ensure the cleanliness of their placenta consumption. Maybe the hospitals and local laws have a point?
The moral of the story is simply to read up on your local laws before you decide to eat your own placenta straight from the hospital, because who knows if that’ll even really be an option for you. There’s always the safeguard route, though (please, readers, please take this with a grain of salt): have an on call personal chef for the minute you go into labor, labor fully and completely at home, pass the placenta over to your chef to whip up some kind of placenta pate on toast, and then promptly call your local doctor to check yourself and the baby out.