The idea might sound off-putting to many, but around one in three women who have home births choose to eat their own placenta after birth, in the belief that it helps boost their mental health, energy levels and milk production.
The practice, known as placentophagy, has been given a boost with the news that Millie Mackintosh, 32, the former Made In Chelsea star, is planning to eat her placenta after her baby girl is born in the next few weeks.
The confectionary heiress, who already has a one-year-old daughter, Sienna, announced last week that she intended to have her placenta made into pills, following in the footsteps of Coleen Rooney and Kim Kardashian.
The notion of consuming the placenta was started by supporters of the natural birth movement in the 1970s. These days it's eaten raw in a smoothie, cooked, or dehydrated in capsule form. But does the science back it up?
Millie Mackintosh, 32, the former Made In Chelsea star, is planning to eat her placenta after her baby girl is born in the next few weeks. The confectionary heiress, who already has a one-year-old daughter, Sienna, announced last week that she intended to have her placenta made into pills, following in the footsteps of Coleen Rooney and Kim Kardashian
The placenta passes oxygen and nutrients from the mother's blood supply, through the umbilical cord, to the baby. It is a complex organ that is rich in hormones, including progesterone, oestrogen, oxytocin and human placental lactogen which may aid milk production, as well as vitamins B6 and E, and stem cells.
However, the doses of these hormones and nutrients — and the extent to which they are degraded by cooking or dehydrating — are not known.
Research on animals published in 2012 showed that mammals that eat their placentas bond better with their young. It also enhances the new mother's pain threshold.
A more recent study in the journal Women and Birth in 2017 found that women who took placenta pills experience small changes in hormone concentrations, including oestrogen and progesterone, which may help reduce the rapid drop of these hormones after birth.
Meanwhile, researchers in Nevada in the U.S. have found that placenta pills did almost nothing to improve maternal fatigue or ward off depression.
And a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada in 2019, which looked at data from 138 women with a history of mood disorders during pregnancy, found those who ate their placenta were no more or less likely to suffer from postnatal depression than those who did not. The study saw no benefits in terms of mood, energy or milk production.
But for those who choose to do this, there are multiple websites to tell you how to make your placenta into a range of meals and snacks.
Or you can call in the professionals, who will collect the (chilled) placenta shortly after the birth. These 'placenta remedy specialists' have to be