If you pay attention to celebs like Kim Kardashian, Blac Chyna, and Tia Mowry, then eating your placenta (or popping it in pill form) after giving birth may seem like a fantastic idea.
Indeed, so many people believe that consuming a placenta — the organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to a fetus — can help them avoid postpartum depression and increase breastmilk production that the practice has gained something of a health halo.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, are here to take that halo far, far away. The organization released a statement last week detailing a case in which a baby fell ill multiple times. And his infections were traced back to his mother's placenta pills. The CDC went on to advise that parents not consume their placentas.
"No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption," the CDC said in the statement. "The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided."
In the 2016 case detailed in the report, a baby whose mother had an uncomplicated birth and tested negative for a bacteria called group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) — which causes problems like sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis — was taken to the hospital because he had trouble breathing. Doctors took samples of his blood and spinal fluid to test for GBS, which tested positive, and diagnosed the baby with sepsis.
Just five days after he was treated, the baby was taken to the hospital again. And, again, he tested positive for GBS. Doctors couldn't find a source of the bacteria since the breast milk he was drinking tested negative.
They soon learned that the mother had asked to keep her placenta after giving birth — and that she'd had it dehydrated, ground up, and put into about 200 capsules that she had been taking daily. The placenta pills contained GBS and doctors determined that the mother was transferring the bacteria to her baby through skin contact. Doctors asked the mother to stop taking the placenta pills and successfully treated the baby with antibiotics.
"In this case, heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease GBS (group B Streptococcus agalactiae) bacterial counts might not have been reached. Consumption of contaminated placenta capsules might have elevated maternal GBS intestinal and skin colonization, facilitating transfer to the infant," the CDC said in the statement.
Since there is no regulation in how companies prepare placenta pills, they could easily carry harmful pathogens like GBS, the CDC said. No studies have proven that eating a placenta actually helps with postpartum depression or has any other health benefits. But, until this case, there hasn't been evidence that consuming a placenta could be harmful, either.
So, although new parents obviously have the right to choose whether or not eating their placenta is best for their bodies, the CDC just doesn't think it's worth the risk.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
Read these stories next: