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What moms need to know about placenta consumption

After my son was born, I was basking in gratitude to the universe for the baby I would soon be taking home when the doctor broke me out of my reverie and asked if I wanted to take my placenta home as well.

I declined, but the fact that he asked demonstrates what many in the birthing business already know: During the past few decades, more women have been choosing to keep and consume their placentas in the hopes of restoring hormonal balance in the postpartum period.

Placenta consumption is both an ancient practice and a current one. The practice of placentophagy has roots in Chinese medicine, though for purposes generally unrelated to postpartum recovery. These days, many women—including celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Nikki Reed—swear that taking pills made from their placentas boosted their postpartum mood and energy levels.

Yet physicians who study placentophagy say the science hasn’t yet caught up to the hype.

Sharon M. Young, a researcher at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), says that many of the benefits women report seem to be valid. The question is whether that’s from a placebo effect or true physiological effect.

While that’s kept her from advocating for or against the practice of placenta consumption, some academics have come out against it: According to the authors of a recent report published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, placentophagy is potentially harmful and should be discouraged.

This came on the heels of a widely publicized case that saw a newborn develop group B Streptococcus sepsis (GBS) after the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules. The infant’s illness was not definitively proven to be caused by the mother’s placenta consumption, but still prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advise against placenta capsule ingestion.

“There is no research to support placenta ingestion,” says infectious disease expert Dr. Genevieve Buser, lead author of the report on that case. She worries that women could do unintended harm to their babies by choosing to injest placenta.

She says because the placenta passes through the birth canal it can come in contact with Escherichia coli (E. Coli) and Group B streptococcus (GSB) which are sometimes present in a mother’s recto-vaginal area.

“Eating that contaminated placental tissue could then further expose the woman and her baby to those invasive pathogens. E. coli or GBS infection in newborn babies is very serious—even life-threatening—and can cause meningitis (infection in the spinal fluid and brain). These babies need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics in order to get better.”

Proponents of placentophagy say safety is key

Placentophagy proponents say total avoidance is unnecessary and may keep women from accessing something that could help them during the postpartum period. Jodi Selander, is the founder of Placenta Benefits.info, has been researching placentophagy for more than a decade. She created standards for placenta encapsulation that are used by encapsulators around the world, as well as in research at UNLV. Selander says there are safe ways to prepare and encapsulate the placenta while complying with food safety standards.

In the case where the infant contracted GBS, the person who’d made the placenta capsules dehydrated the organ from a raw state at temperatures not high enough to reduce the bacterial presence. Selander says she never recommends such a method; her own preparation procedure follows that of traditional Chinese medicine: The organ is steamed before it is dehydrated, an important step that should not be skipped.

Selander suggests mothers considering placentophagy seriously research the encapsulation methods of their proposed encapsulator. “I want women who are doing these preparations to understand that this isn’t something that you just play around with. You have to follow standards and protocols,” says Selander, who feels blanket statements against placenta encapsulation ignore the experiences of the many women who report positive results.

For many moms, it’s a worthy option

After the birth of her first child, Erin Martin took the placenta home in a biohazard box, and an encapsulator arrived soon after to process it (using a process different from Selander’s).

“We got the pills, and a tincture and placenta broth,” says Martin. “We got everything. We got a smorgasbord of placenta.”

Her partner made chicken fried rice with the broth and froze portions for her to consume throughout the postpartum period. Martin also took the capsules on a regular basis, although she declined to use the tincture, a liquid product made with alcohol that is said to be shelf stable.

According to Martin, taking the capsules seemed to make a difference in elevating her mood—but not so much that she did it again. For her next birth, she brought the placenta home just in case, but never followed through with getting it encapsulated. By the time her third child was born, she didn’t feel she needed the extra boost she got from the placenta pills.

“For my subsequent labor and delivery and postpartum experiences, I felt like I had a better handle on things,” Martin says, noting that she would still recommend placentophagy to other mothers, especially first-time moms. “If it makes you feel better about your experience, then do it, because anything that’s going to make you feel better is worth it. Even if it’s placebo-like, if you have something that’s working for you, hang onto it.”

Is it the placebo effect?

Even if the benefits come from the idea of the pill rather than the pill itself, UNLV researcher Young says there does seem to be a link between self-reported advantages. Young’s goal is to determine what’s the true cause of those benefits.

When Young and her colleagues analyzed the concentrations of different substances in placenta capsules, they found small amounts of minerals like iron and zinc. While the amounts of iron were not as high as some placentophagy proponents expected them to be, there were other interesting results as well.

“We also analyzed 17 different hormones in the placenta capsules,” she says. “And we found that processing the placenta by steaming it, dehydrating it and encapsulating it didn’t actually destroy the hormones in the way that we thought it might,”

According to Young, the hormones were present in concentrations that could potentially elicit physiological effects, but further research is needed.

Allow health care professionals to guide any decision

Placenta advocates and detractors agree: Women should talk to their health care providers before making a decision. New parents should also be aware of the risks associated with improper placenta capsule preparation.

In the debate over the science, one thing is clear: Many women swear by placenta encapsulation.“That’s valid and we need to listen to that,” says Selander.

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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.

"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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Amazon shoppers were anxiously awaiting the countdown to Amazon Prime Day, but when the clock struck one, er three, the website went down.

On Monday afternoon shoppers were trying to get their hands on the much-hyped Prime Day deals but instead of low prices, many users just saw 404 errors, continuously refreshing pages, or had issues keeping or adding items to their shopping carts.

CNBC reports shares of Amazon were down during the shopping glitch, and many shoppers took to Twitter and Instagram to discuss how all they could see on Amazon were the dogs who decorate the site's 404 pages.

As cute as the dogs are, shoppers are getting tired of seeing them, so hopefully Amazon gets things back up and running soon. Analysts had projected Amazon would rake in $3 billion dollars this Prime Day. Time will tell how much of that was lost during the great dog picture debacle of 2018.

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When we were kids, family photos shoots typically captured posed moments in a Sears portrait studio, but these days, professional photographers often encourage candid shoots with a more casual vibe.

Casual is hardly the first word that comes to mind when we think of the royal family, but newly released photos from little Prince Louis' recent christening prove why impromptu shots are so popular. Yes, there's still a time for a sit-down, studio-lit family portrait, but it's those fleeting moments of realness that mamas will really want to look back on some day.

Let's take a look at pics from the little Prince's big day.

The extended family sit-down shoot

It's a gorgeous posed photo (and it certainly captures Prince George's adorable smile) but this group pic still feels pretty stiff, even for the royals.

The smaller family photo

This one's a bit more natural, with Prince George flashing an even wider grin and little Princess Charlotte staring at the guest of honor (who appears to be napping) rather than the camera. Both Duchesses look stunning, as they do in all the photos.

Just the Cambridges

A similar pose to last year's Christmas card, this stand up shot of the family of five looks like it was captured just in time. Prince George may be preparing to bold, and Princess Charlotte is about to be lost behind her brother's christening gown.

Mother and son

A stunning outdoor shot, this pic shows little Prince Louis with his bright eyes wide open and his mama staring down at him. Definitely one for Kate to frame for the nursery.

A happy baby boy

That face! This beautiful shot of Prince Louis proves that candid shots can accomplish what posed, portrait studio pics often fail to: Those special, fleeting, moments when our children really show their personality.

Prince Louis, you Sir, are adorable.

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