Recently, Chrissy Teigen joined a long list of stars who’ve opened up about consuming their placenta after birth, in part to stave off postpartum depression.
Nikki Reed, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Katherine Heigl and Ryan Lochte’s wife Kayla Rae Reid encapsulated theirs, Khloé Kardashian shared plans to consume hers, and Teigen seemingly simply cooked hers. Women’s Health even has recipes for placenta smoothies, lasagna, chili and truffles.
When discussing the matter on CBS Sunday Morning, Teigen — who recently welcomed her second child, son Miles, with husband John Legend — was seemingly surprised by interviewer Rita Braver’s skepticism at the practice.
“Really? That’s not a normal thing?” she said. “I’m in L.A., it’s very normal. They grill it here. You can try some of mine after.”
According to Dr. Sara Swift, an OB-GYN in Green Bay, Wisconsin, placenta eating “gets a big fat no from me,” she tells PEOPLE. “There is no proven scientific evidence that placentophagy is beneficial — no increase in breastmilk production, as it can actually have the opposite effect, and no benefit in mood, etc. — all the benefits are thought to be placebo effects.”
Referencing a 2015 medical journal article entitled Exploring Placentophagy in Humans: Problems and Recommendations, Swift says that one of the “flaws” in the theory that eating placenta helps a new mom is that cooking or steaming the organ “essentially renders the hormones inactive,” she says. “So not only are you eating something that you kept in your uterus for 30-plus weeks and came through your vagina, it’s not even active.”
The more bothersome concern, she adds, is that “there can be bacterial colonization, because once again it comes through your vagina, which is close to the rectum, which means bacteria are present.”
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The Centers for Disease Control warned against consuming placenta in 2017, after a baby was infected several times with Group B Strep (GBS) by a breastfeeding mom; though the milk tested negative for GBS, once doctors realized the woman was taking placenta pills, they had those tested and discovered the dehydrated placenta contained GBS. The CDC’s report noted that “no standards exist for processing placenta for consumption,” and that “the placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens.” (The baby was successfully treated with antibiotics.)
A 2018 study somewhat rebuffed the CDC’s claims, though the organization has not changed its stance.
“I am all for natural and more alternative methods for women to feel better postpartum,” Swift says, again cautioning against placentophagy. “However, If one is to eat their placenta, I would make sure that they go through a company that ensures it is heated to a minimum of 130 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours to reduce the amount of bacteria, and not eating the placenta if the placenta is infected.”