A new review of placentophagy — the consumption of human placenta — shows there is no significant benefit, and it may actually cause harm, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) said in a committee opinion article published in the May issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. Therefore, they "do not recommend" it.
"Currently, there is no strong evidence to suggest that placental consumption is beneficial for human health," Dr. Jocelynn Cook, chief scientific officer of the SOGC, said in a news release Tuesday.
WATCH: Don't take placenta pills, CDC warns
"The scientific research shows that there is both potential and documented harm associated with the consumption of human placenta."
The harm includes the potential for contamination with harmful bacteria, viruses, or fungi due to improper handling and sterilization of the placenta, the SOGC explained.
Why do people eat placentas, anyway?
The placenta is an organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, and removes waste products from its blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Proponents of placentophagy (often consumed raw, cooked, or in the form of a pill) say consuming it has physical and psychological benefits to new moms.
Despite the risks, 25 per cent of the American and Canadian women in a study published in January consumed their placentas. Why? They thought it would decrease the risk of postpartum depression, increase iron stores, decrease their fatigue, and improve lactation.
This is exactly what advocates of the practice claim, the SOGC explained in its statement. And that's concerning, Health Canada adds in its own warning, because it could lead mothers with serious health issues to delay getting medical help.
You can also blame Kim Kardashian for its rise in popularity. Just kidding. But seriously, a lot of celebrity mothers have made health claims about the practice, including Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, and Hilary Duff.
"I think the reason this is a new 'fad' is celebrity couples are doing it. Kim Kardashian posted pictures of her taking her freeze-dried placenta capsules, and when celebrities promote these fads, they become gospel," Dr. Sarah Cook, a Toronto family physician, previously told HuffPost Canada.
There have been previous warnings
The SOGC isn't the first to warn mothers about the risks of consuming human placenta. In November, Health Canada reminded Canadians that human placenta products are not authorized for consumption and may pose serious health risks.
"While consuming placenta is a personal choice, we are advising mothers, and others who may be consuming placenta preparations that they should be aware of the potential risks associated with the practice for themselves and their babies," the statement reads.
Placenta can contain harmful bacteria like Group B Streptococcus, and viruses such as HIV and hepatitis, the agency added. These could cause infections in new moms and their babies.
Australia has also warned new moms against human placenta ingestion. And in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. said that "placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided" after a baby was hospitalized with a bacterial infection traced back to the placenta pills his mother had been taking.
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