There is an emerging and recently increasing trend of placenta encapsulation and consumption. I want to spend some time speaking to you about this very important health topic. Placenta encapsulation is the practice of consuming the placenta after it has been steamed, dehydrated, and placed into pills. This practice has been touted to produce health benefits. As a Lactation Consultant, I encounter questions about the benefits and safety of this practice. As with many medicines and treatments, more research is needed. At present, the research has not shown any benefit to consuming the placenta. In fact, there is growing evidence that it can cause harm. In the Lactation Community around the country, we have noticed an alarming trend of lowered milk supply, delayed onset of lactation and subsequent weight loss in the infants and failure to thrive. There are some residual hormones left in the placenta product that is consumed. These hormones may be responsible for inhibiting milk supply. A complete detachment of the placenta after birth is necessary to initiate a full supply of breast milk. Adding these hormones back into the body can be detrimental. "Taking placenta back in after birth inhibits prolactin from binding and producing milk. Some women’s milk supply may be able to withstand this hormonal suppression, but many don’t. This is like having retained placenta or taking hormonal birth control pills, which can lower milk supply" (8,9,12,13,14,15)
In addition, there is the possibility of infection. There was a case of an infant developing Group Beta Hemolytic Streptococcus (GBS) due to the mother having ingested her encapsulated placenta. The CDC found the source of the infection was the placenta pills. (Buser, 2017).
The current guidelines in clinical Lactation are to discontinue consuming placenta in the presence of a low milk supply. This is due to the high likelihood that it's consumption is the cause of the decreased or delayed milk. Fortunately, most women develop or regain a full milk supply after cessation of placental ingestion. I feel strongly about this issue. A thorough education on the topic for expectant and new parents is essential. Until a through body of research on Placenta Encapsulation has been conducted and proven its benefits and safety, the practice should be discouraged.
Davis, E. 2012. Heart and Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth (5th edition) Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. (pp 199-219)
Sinclair, C. 2004. A Midwife’s Handbook. St.Luis, MO: Saunders. (pp 506-507)
Neville MC, Morton J, Umemura S. Lactogenesis. The transition from pregnancy to lactation. Pediatric Clin North Am. 2001;48:35-52
Walker, M. (2017). Breastfeeding management for the clinician: Using the evidence (4th edition) Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. (pp 118 - 127)
Riordin, J.(2005).Breastfeeding and Human Lactation.(3rd edition)Sudbury,MA:Jones and Bartlett(pp 73-77)
ABM Clinical Protocol #13: Contraception During Breastfeeding, Revised 2015. http:/www.bfmed.orgMediaFilesProtocolsContraception%20During%20Breastfeeding.pdf
Buser GL, Mató S, Zhang AY, Metcalf BJ, Beall B, Thomas AR. Notes from the Field: Late-Onset Infant Group B Streptococcus Infection Associated with Maternal Consumption of Capsules Containing Dehydrated Placenta — Oregon, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:677–678. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6625a4