After welcoming her second child, Oscar “Ozzie” Bennett Goldsmith on Friday, Oct. 21, Mandy Moore recently shared on her Instagram Stories that she’s consuming her placenta in capsule form post-birth. 

“Round 2 with @feelgoodplacenta,” the new mom of two wrote via Instagram on Tuesday, Oct. 25, alongside a photo of a pill bottle with the label: “Made By You, For You. Filled With Your Placenta and a Whole Lot of Love.” 

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Instagram.com/mandymooremm

It’s Moore’s second time with placenta encapsulation. After the birth of her first son Gus, whom she shares with musician Taylor Goldsmith, Moore shared on “Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy Podcast” that she consumed her placenta after Gus’ birth and commented “it was so beautiful” and she couldn’t wait to try it again. 

Placenta encapsulation has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to other famous proponents like Kim Kardashian, Hilary Duff and Nikki Reed. Purported benefits include that it can help with recovery after birth by balancing hormones and restoring iron levels, as well as warding off postpartum depression. But there’s neither strong scientific evidence nor a strong traditional history1Farr A, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Baergen RN, Grünebaum A. Human placentophagy: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(4):401.e1-401.e11. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.016 supporting the practice—and there are some significant risks.

At its core, placenta encapsulation is about honoring the mysterious and somewhat miraculous organ that grew alongside your baby for 10 months, and then, in many settings, is promptly discarded after birth. But there are other ways to honor the placenta and the pivotal role it plays in bringing your baby into the world… without eating it.

Related: What moms need to know about placenta consumption

What is placenta encapsulation?

Placenta encapsulation is a process which involves dehydrating the placenta and turning it into a powder for consumption in pill form by the birthing mother. The process of consuming or eating the placenta is known as placentophagy, and it can encompass placenta pills, mixing placenta powder into smoothies or cooking and eating the organ meat itself. 

Unlike babywearing or observing a period of postpartum rest and confinement, which both have a long history of tradition, there is no historical evidence that human cultures consume the placenta as part of a traditional practice.  

The benefits of placenta encapsulation are only anecdotal

According to anecdotal reports, consuming your placenta after birth is supposed to help you heal from labor and birth, improve your postpartum hormonal balance, restore iron levels, improve lactation and reduce fatigue. Many have suggested that it helps prevent postpartum depression. 

But according to a review in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers have found little evidence supporting these claims, stating that the only evidence is anecdotal and limited to self-reported surveys.2Farr A, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Baergen RN, Grünebaum A. Human placentophagy: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(4):401.e1-401.e11. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.016 

“We found that there is no scientific evidence of any clinical benefit of placentophagy among humans, and no placental nutrients and hormones are retained in sufficient amounts after placenta encapsulation to be potentially helpful to the mother postpartum,” the review authors state.

Another small randomized, double-blind, controlled trial found no significant differences in postpartum mood, bonding or fatigue among women who consumed placenta pills and those who took a placebo,3Young SM, Gryder LK, Cross C, Zava D, Kimball DW, Benyshek DC. Placentophagy’s effects on mood, bonding, and fatigue: A pilot trial, part 2. Women and Birth. 2018 Aug 1;31(4):e258-71. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2017.11.004 and yet another small study found that taking placenta pills did not improve iron levels more than a beef placebo.4Gryder LK, Young SM, Zava D, Norris W, Cross CL, Benyshek DC. Effects of Human Maternal Placentophagy on Maternal Postpartum Iron Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017;62(1):68-79. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12549  

For those who may experience a mood-boosting effect after taking the pills, we simply don’t have the evidence to support this claim, either, notes Rebecca Dekker, PhD, founder of Evidence Based Birth. “Right now, we don’t know if it has any effect on postpartum depression, and any effect that it may have, may be due to the placebo effect,” she shares in a video. 

Of course, part of the problem is limited research: We need larger trials and more information. But based on the information we do have, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Risks of eating your placenta after birth

It’s also important to remember that the placenta serves as a type of barrier to prevent harmful toxins like bacteria and viruses from reaching the baby, and some experts say it may contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury. 

There’s also the issue of how it’s prepared. According to the CDC, “No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption,” and the agency warns against it, noting there’s a risk of bacterial contamination. The process is typically performed by a doula or other third party company after birth, and isn’t regulated by any governing body. 

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” the CDC notes. 

In one case, a 5-day-old infant was hospitalized with late-onset group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection, which was discovered to be due to the infant’s mother’s consumption of placenta capsules, which were tested and found to be positive for GBS—even though she tested negative for GBS prior to giving birth.

Related: Where does the placenta come from? We didn’t know either

And finally, suggesting that consuming the placenta can prevent postpartum depression means there’s a risk that women may use placenta pills in place of seeking support or other evidence-based treatments for postpartum depression and related conditions. 

Other ways to honor your placenta

There’s no denying the fact that the placenta is pretty incredible. Aside from eating it, there are several ways to honor the life-giving organ that helped your baby grow and develop in the womb. 

4 ways to honor your placenta after birth:

  • Bury the placenta and plant a flower or fruit tree over the site
  • Photograph the placenta with your newborn baby
  • Practice a lotus birth
  • Make a placenta print using ink or paint to show the tree of life pattern that appears on the baby’s side

Many postpartum doulas can help you create a work of art or other ceremony honoring the placenta, and hospitals are generally willing to let birthing parents take home the placenta after delivery to use as they’d wish. But before you move ahead with placenta encapsulation, discuss all the benefits and risks with your birth providers.

References: 

Buser GL, Mató S, Zhang AY, Metcalf BJ, Beall B, Thomas AR. Notes from the Field: Late-Onset Infant Group B Streptococcus Infection Associated with Maternal Consumption of Capsules Containing Dehydrated Placenta — Oregon, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:677–678. Doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6625a4

Farr A, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Baergen RN, Grünebaum A. Human placentophagy: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218(4):401.e1-401.e11. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.08.016

Gryder LK, Young SM, Zava D, Norris W, Cross CL, Benyshek DC. Effects of Human Maternal Placentophagy on Maternal Postpartum Iron Status: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017;62(1):68-79. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12549 

Young SM, Gryder LK, Cross C, Zava D, Kimball DW, Benyshek DC. Placentophagy’s effects on mood, bonding, and fatigue: A pilot trial, part 2. Women and Birth. 2018 Aug 1;31(4):e258-71. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2017.11.004

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