Placentophagia is act of eating one’s placenta after birth. Almost all non-human mammals eat placenta for good reasons, but it’s not so common in humans — are we missing something? Perhaps people view placentophagia as a form of cannibalism or perhaps we are not educated enough about the benefits.

Why animals engage in this placentophagia:

  • It keeps the nest area clean;
  • It reduces odours that would attract predators;
  • It replenishes nutritional loss from pregnancy;
  • It allows mom to acquire needed hormones;
  • It is simply a response to hunger after birth;
  • It expresses a tendency towards carnivorousness post-birth.

The benefits that also reinforce the act of animal placentophagia:

  • The act increases attraction to and caring for the neonate.  The attraction of the placenta and amniotic fluids means the mother interacts with her baby sooner than a cleaned neonate which elicits maternal caretaking behaviour.
  • The act results in a neurochemical increase of the pain threshold.  The ingestion of the placenta both increases opioid production and enhances morphine-mediated pain relief.  Importantly, this effect actually raises pain relief without interfering with maternal caretaking behaviour, which would be disrupted if the pain relief source was not from the placenta but from a drug.
  • The act increases neurochemical maternal behaviours.  The opioid activity mentioned above also serves to increase activity in the “maternal neural substrate” (the area of the brain associated with caregiving and maternal behaviours), even in nonpregnant animals.

So why should I consider placentaophagia?

The placenta is composed of beneficial hormones, chemicals, iron, and proteins which include the following:

  • Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone: Contributes to mammary gland development in preparation for lactation; stabilizes postpartum mood; regulates post-birth uterine cramping; decreases depression; normalizes and stimulates libido.
  • Prolactin: Promotes lactation; increases milk supply; enhances the mothering instinct.
  • Oxytocin: Decreases pain and increases bonding in mother and infant; counteracts the production of stress hormones such as Cortisol; greatly reduces postpartum bleeding; enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex.
  • Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF): Stimulates the production of your body’s natural opioids, including endorphins; reduces pain; increases well-being.
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: Regulates the thyroid gland; boosts energy and supports recovery from stressful events.
  • Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH): Low levels of CRH are implicated in postpartum depression. Regulation of CRH helps prevent depression.
  • Cortisone: Reduces inflammation and swelling; promotes healing.
  • Interferon: Triggers the protective defenses of the immune system to fight infection.
  • Prostaglandins: Regulates contractions in the uterus after birth; helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Iron: Replenishes maternal iron stores to combat anemia, a common postpartum condition. Increases energy; decreases fatigue and depression.
  • Hemoglobin: Oxygen-carrying molecule which provides a boost in energy.
  • Urokinase Inhibiting Factor and Factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing.
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG): Antibody molecules which support the immune system.
  • Human Placental Lactogen (hPL): This hormone has lactogenic and growth-promoting properties; promotes mammary gland growth in preparation for lactation in the mother. It also regulates maternal glucose, protein, and fat levels.

The most important nutrients found in rich supply in the placenta include:

  • Stem Cells and Growth Factors
  • Iron – essential for oxygen absorption in the cells
  • Vitamins B6 – aids in the making of antibodies
  • Vitamin E – for healing damaged skin cells
  • Oxytocin hormone – essential for facilitating birth and breastfeeding
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) – responsible for reducing stress levels
  • Cytokins – Fibroblasts that trigger cell metabolism healing and replacing damaged cells and tissue
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