Objective: To evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of women during pregnancy and the postpartum period related to placentophagy.
Design: Mixed methods study (cross-sectional survey and online discussions).
Setting: We used social media to advertise the study to mother/parenting groups. Online discussion groups were conducted through Google Groups.
Participants: Women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period and placenta encapsulation specialists with Internet access.
Methods: We summarized descriptive data and analyzed subgroups with the use of chi-square tests. We conducted a binary logistic regression to compare placentophagy with demographic variables and used constant comparative analysis to analyze online discussion group themes.
Results: Overall, 271 of 1,088 (24.9%) respondents consumed their placentas. Canadian respondents and those who experienced pregnancy/birth-related complications were significantly (p < .05) less likely to consume their placentas than respondents from the United States (odds ratio = 0.48, 95% confidence interval [0.28, 0.82]) and those who had no complications (odds ratio = 0.56, 95% confidence interval [0.37, 0.85]). Increased iron stores (521/1,030, 50.6%), prevention of postpartum depression (519/1,030, 50.4%), and increased energy/decreased fatigue (460/1,030, 44.7%) were the most commonly listed perceived benefits. Infection and improper handling/preparation of the placenta were important concerns, and hospital policy was noted as a barrier to placentophagy.
Conclusion: Respondents who engaged in placentophagy were primarily motivated by unproven benefits, such as the prevention of postpartum depression and anemia, for which there are other management alternatives. Although placentophagy is gaining popularity, it remains unregulated, and safety and efficacy data are limited. A safe, standardized preparation process is needed to minimize potential harm before further efficacy studies can be done. Targeted educational material surrounding placentophagy is needed to improve woman-centered care.
Keywords: complementary therapies; obstetrics; placentophagy; postpartum depression; postpartum health; women’s health.
Copyright © 2019 AWHONN, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.