Is It Safe to Eat Your Placenta?

Is It Safe to Eat Your Placenta?

 Medically Reviewed by Tarun Jain, M.D. on May 17, 2021

Animals do it. Chinese medicine has advocated it for centuries. While eating your placenta, called placentophagy, isn't a new idea, it’s been getting a lot of buzz in recent years. Moms in and out of the limelight have reported trying the practice in the hopes that eating the placenta will help avoid the baby blues and boost postpartum energy levels.

In theory, the trend seems to make some sense. After all, the placenta is a baby’s in utero power pack, providing the fetus with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients — not to mention oxygen — to grow from just a few cells into a full-fledged tiny person.

The placenta is also loaded with iron and vitamins B6 and B12, as well as estrogen and progesterone, reproductive hormones that are abundant during pregnancy but drop after you give birth — which can potentially contribute to postpartum depression (PPD).

Why do people eat their placenta?

Fans of the practice say that eating the placenta can ward off anemia, help increase milk supply, balance hormones and lower your chances of PPD — but only if you eat your own. (Never eat another woman’s; placentas aren't sterile, so there’s a risk of disease.) Proponents also point out that most other mammals routinely eat their placentas.

What are the benefits of eating the placenta?

The truth is there’s not much evidence that the practice actually benefits humans. A few small studies have connected placenta-eating with increased breast milk supply and pain relief — the latter only in rats. But no studies have looked at the possible risks, if any, of ingesting human tissue.

In the case of some pregnancy conditions, such as preeclampsia, for example, the placenta may contain some stress proteins. No one really knows what effect, if any, these proteins have if you consume them. The bottom line: Overwhelmingly, mainstream medical experts believe — and large studies have shown — that there’s just no proven reason to eat your placenta.


In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned against eating the placenta, due in part to an incident when a newborn was infected with Group B strep after the mother ate contaminated placenta capsules.  

What to do if you decide to eat the placenta despite the risks

Still curious about giving it a try on the off chance you'll reap some of the placenta's life-giving powers? Then keep the following in mind:

  • Check with your hospital or birthing center — before you go into labor. Most hospitals treat the placenta as medical or biohazardous waste and dispose of it along with the other waste, like needles and blood. If you want to keep yours, you’ll need to arrange that in advance. Check with your practitioner too. If he or she’s not a fan of placentophagy, you could try to find a more accommodating provider or petition for a change in procedure.
  • Send it to out to be professionally prepped. The most common way to eat your placenta — and the easiest to swallow — is in pill form. In a process called placenta encapsulation, your placenta is dried, powdered and sealed into vitamin-sized capsules. Numerous companies will do it for you, but it comes at a price. And, the CDC warns, there are no efficacy or safety standards for sterilizing and processing placentas. So although facilities test moms before birth for pre-existing infections like HIV, hepatitis B and C, herpes, chlamydia, syphilis and Lyme disease, some do not look into infections that occur during or after birth. And while companies take steps to eliminate bacteria, these steps may or may not be sufficient to knock out all potential bad bugs.
  • Follow safe-prep practices. If you opt to prep your placenta at home, DIY supplies, kits and instructions are available online. Freeze it in a clean container or cook it right away, since like any “meat,” placenta can spoil. Some new moms hire professional placenta preparers — many midwives now know how to prep placenta, too — who dehydrate it, grind it into a powder, and turn the powder into pills that can be swallowed daily. If you go this route, make sure no other herbs or unknown ingredients are added to the mix. Other mothers with stronger stomachs cut the membranes (the thin layer of tissue) away from the placenta, then cook it like any other type of meat: in stews, spaghetti sauces, chili or patties. Or you can make a smoothie with frozen placenta.
  • Monitor yourself. No matter how you decide to dish up your placenta, stop taking the pills or eating the meat if you feel sick after ingesting it. And if you do experience PPD, don’t wait around for the “magic” of the placenta to kick in. Talk to your doctor right away so you get proper treatment to protect yourself and your baby, which may include therapy or antidepressants.

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