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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.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

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