Some new moms swear by it: taking placenta pills to boost energy, replace nutrients lost during childbirth and nourish their growing babies. But in a new warning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging moms to stop taking placenta pills.
The warning follows on the heels of a case in which a baby born healthy and without complications ended up in the neonatal intensive care unit. CDC doctors suggest that the baby contracted a serious infection from his mom who was taking placenta pills.
“No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption … placenta ingestion has recently been promoted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking,” the CDC says in its report.
“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” it concludes.
Placentophagy, which is when people eat the placenta after giving birth, has been around for millennia, but scientists have questioned its safety and whether the practice actually offers health benefits.
Over the past few years, it’s gained in popularity: celebrities and everyday moms swear by keeping the placenta after childbirth and consuming it raw, cooked or preserved.
In some cases, companies will dehydrate the placenta and turn it into pills for convenient consumption.
In the CDC’s report, an Oregon mom turned to a company to encapsulate her placenta. It was dehydrated and turned into pills within three days after she gave birth – she was advised to take two capsules three times a day.
Her baby ended up in a neonatal intensive care unit where his blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were taken for testing. Doctors discharged the baby but he ended up in the emergency room again five days later.
Turns out, the baby developed an infection called group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS), which can trigger severe respiratory problems.
A sample of the placenta pills revealed that it also contained GBS.
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The CDC concedes there’s no way of knowing that the placenta pills were the definitive culprit in sparking the baby’s illness (even if GBS showed in samples from the pills). Family members could have given the infection to the baby.
The CDC also suggests that in the encapsulation process, the placenta may not have been cooked for long enough to destroy any germs or bacteria.
“Heating at 54C for 121 minutes is required to reduce Salmonella bacterial counts…In this case, heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease GBS bacterial counts might not have been reached,” the report reads.
Read the full findings.
— With files from Tania Kohut, Global News