Curtin Uni academic says more research needed into practice of eating placenta after birth

Curtin University Bachelor of Science (midwifery) course co-ordinator Lesley Kuliukas.
Curtin University Bachelor of Science (midwifery) course co-ordinator Lesley Kuliukas.

PREGNANT and considering whether to consume your placenta after birth?

A Curtin University midwifery academic says there’s no evidence to support the practice and more research is needed.

In fact it could be a risk due to the possibility of infection either from the womb or due to cross-contamination in hospital.

Ultimately, Lesley Kuliukas said, it was a case of personal preference.

“There is anecdotal evidence supporting the practice, and in all medicine there is a placebo affect of about 30 per cent,” she said.

“It is also difficult to achieve a fully randomised control study to look at the effects of placenta consumption, because women would know in advance whether they would eat their placenta or remain firmly against the idea.

“According to the anecdotal evidence, the practice is claimed to help ward off post-natal depression due to hormones present in the placenta.”

Dr Kuliukas said when she was training, women on occasion would eat their placentas.

“They would cut it up and freeze it and take it in little pieces, or cook it and eat it in a casserole,” she said.

For about a decade, she believed, there has been the option to encapsulate the placenta so it could be taken in tablet form.

The heating process involved in encapsulation is believed to kill off viruses but there were concerns hormones and nutrients may also be destroyed in the process.

Studies of the hormones within encapsulated placentas showed some hormones were present at physiologically relevant levels and iron was present in small quantities.

Dr Kuliukas acknowledged animals do consume their placentas but said humans don’t generally and aquatic mammals do not.

She said there was the question of why animals consume placentas and said it could be to avoid attracting predators.

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