New mothers who consume placenta after birth could be putting themselves and their babies at risk of infections such as sepsis, a study warns.
After reviewing dozens of studies from across the globe on so-called placentophagy, or placenta consumption, researchers are advising obstetricians to discourage their patients from eating the placenta in any form.
"As obstetricians, it is important to tell the truth. And the truth is it is potentially harmful and there is no evidence it is beneficial, therefore, do not do it," said Amos Grunebaum, from New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in the US.
The placenta is an organ serving as the connection between mother and developing baby. Its job is to transport oxygen and other crucial nutrients for foetal growth, as well as filter toxins that might harm the foetus, researchers said.
Human placentas have been consumed in many forms: raw, cooked, roasted, dehydrated, steamed and dehydrated in capsule form, or in smoothies or other drinks. The most common preparation appears to be in capsules, researchers said.
However, the researchers found no evidence in clinical studies backing the health benefits claimed by proponents of placenta-eating.
These alleged advantages include preventing postpartum depression, enhancing general mood and energy levels, improving breast-milk supply and reducing postpartum bleeding, ‘Health Day’ reported.
On the other hand, the researchers said, potential dangers of placenta consumption are becoming apparent.
In June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about a case of a newborn developing recurrent group B Streptococcus sepsis after the mother ingested contaminated placenta capsules containing this form of Streptococcus.
The baby’s mother had been consuming placenta capsules three times a day. While her breast milk did not exhibit group B Streptococcus, samples of her dried placenta inside the capsules did.
It was the first "solid evidence that contaminated placenta capsules can be a source of infection," researchers said.
"A woman’s decision about placenta-eating should be based on scientific information, not on wishful thinking and other thoughts that are not clearly outlined," said Grunebaum.