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Sorry, But Placenta Pills Probably Don't Work Miracles

A new study found that the celebrity-endorsed practice of consuming the placenta after childbirth to boost health probably isn't effective.

Kourtney Kardashian and Placenta Pills
(L) JB Lacroix / (R) Kansas City Star / Getty

It's inevitable that we take note of the way our favorite celebrities and athletes live. We hate to admit it, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we tried to believe that their diets, exercise routines, and fashion choices don't influence ours, at least to some degree. The same can go for whatever health practices are trending among the stars. Recently, one of those trends by which new celebrity moms are swearing is maternal placentophagy—the practice of ingesting the placenta after childbirth (usually in pill form, although some advocates have suggested cooking it or tossing frozen pieces into daily fruit smoothies). 

If you've never heard of it before, you may be cringing at the thought of taking placenta pills or drinking a smoothie that features frozen afterbirth. But if you've kept tabs on any of the celeb moms who endorse the practice, you'll know that they claim it works wonders at preventing postpartum depression, reducing postpartum pain, and helping with fatigue. Despite these claims, past studies have failed to find any solid evidence that placentophagy offers any real health benefits, and a new study done at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas found that taking placenta pills has little to no effect on women's postpartum mood or maternal bonding.  

Researchers had 12 women take bona-fide placenta pills while 15 others took placebos, and came to the conclusion that the many claims of those who swear by placenta pills weren't clearly supported by the results of the (admittedly small) study. They also found, however, that there were small changes in hormone levels in mothers who were supplementing with the placenta capsules. Despite that discovery, more research has to be done to determine whether those altered hormone levels are significant or have any sort of therapeutic effect on new moms. 

“Placentophagy supporters may point to the fact that we did see evidence that many of the hormones detected in the placenta capsules were modestly elevated in the placenta group moms,” senior author Daniel Benyshek said, according to the university website. “Similarly for skeptics, our results might be seen as proof that placentophagy doesn't ‘really work’ because we did not find the type of clear, robust differences in maternal hormone levels or postpartum mood between the placenta group and placebo group that these types of studies are designed to detect.”

So the jury's still out on whether placenta capsules offer any actual benefits, especially since scientists admit that the practice warrants more research. But for now, it hasn't been scientifically proven to benefit mother and child's health after childbirth.

As is the case with many health trends, placentophagy has its fair share of purported pros and cons that moms-to-be should take into account before they make the call. But, let's face it, whether you want to eat, drink, encapsulate, or discard your placenta, that's 100% your decision. 

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