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Health Canada Says You Probably Shouldn't Eat Your Placenta

It turns out that eating a temporary organ expelled from your uterus may not be super-healthy.
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The placenta, in case you didn't know, is a temporary organ that develops inside the uterus of a pregnant woman. It's a spongy, squishy sack that provides growing babies with nutrients and removes waste from their blood.

Not long after your baby is born, the placenta will be expelled from your uterus in what's usually referred to as an afterbirth. In most cases, hospitals will discard the placenta along with other medical waste.

On Thursday, Health Canada issued a press release reminding Canadians that human placenta products are not authorized for consumption in Canada. In other words, the government is telling you that you probably shouldn't eat your placenta.

A midwife places dehydrated human placenta into capsules in Washington, D.C.
A midwife places dehydrated human placenta into capsules in Washington, D.C.

"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.

Because human placenta is a biologic material, it may contain infectious bacteria or viruses, including hepatitis or HIV, Health Canada says. That can lead to infections in new mothers and their babies.

A doe eating her own placenta.
Andyworks via Getty Images
A doe eating her own placenta.

Proponents of "placentophagy" argue that many mammals consume their offspring's placenta, and that the practice has been around for several millennia. In recent years, dehydrated placenta in pill form has been suggested as a natural treatment for postpartum depression, and has been touted as a way to improve mood and energy levels, and to increase milk production.

The pro-placenta message has been amplified by celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, January Jones, Samantha Bee and Padma Lakshmi. Hilary Duff recently said she drank a "delightful" placenta smoothie after giving birth to a daughter in late October.

But last April, researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas discovered that there was "little to no" significant difference in mood, bonding or fatigue levels in women who took placenta pills. Several months later, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged new mothers not to consume placenta after a baby born healthy in Oregon was hospitalized after developing a bacterial infection. The bacteria was found in the placenta pills his mother had been consuming.

In Canada, clinics that offer placenta encapsulation services have been contacted by Health Canada, which is urging them to stop. The agency says that in addition to potentially causing harm to both mother and child, they're worried that women with medical issues might opt for placenta consumption rather than seeking treatment.

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