Take what happens in the nature as an example is fine, but only sometimes. It is right to learn from flight of bats to build drones, or from the structure of some beetles to get whiter white paint. It is also very useful to analyze the ability of regeneration of some species. But that some animals choose to eat the placenta after giving birth does not mean that humans should also do it.
In fact, it is more than likely that, if these animals lived with our circumstances, they would not even think of eating the placenta. Even so, it is still fashionable among some people. It is also fashionable placenta impression, which consists of letting the placenta dry and dye, to later capture it on a canvas that serves as a memory for the mothers. This can be more or less appetizing, but it is not dangerous. Eating the placenta, whether in pills, shakes or in any other form, yes it can be.
It has no use and besides can cause infections both to mothers who ingest it and to babies, if they are breastfeeding. Therefore, if you want to do something with the placenta after bringing a child into the world, prepare the canvas and the watercolors, but better not eat it.
Why do animals eat the placenta?
Many of the people who defend eating the placenta do so on the grounds that it is something natural, which animals also do.
And it’s true. Virtually all mammals do it, with the exception of the aquatic ones, the camels and, in principle, the humans.
Placentophagy, as the activity of eating the placenta is called, is carried out in animals for two reasons. On the one hand, when the female has just given birth, both she and her young are vulnerable to possible predator attack. The decomposing placenta has a very strong odor, which can attract these potential dangers, so mothers choose to eat it.
On the other hand, it is also possible that after giving birth they have some nutritional deficiencies that they try to supply by eating the placenta. But we humans do not see ourselves in either of these two situations. The newly calved can be supplemented with the nutrients they need and take all kinds of food. Also, there are no dangers lurking. Even if there were, the placenta is usually thrown away. In fact, it is known that in some cultures, especially in the past, it was buried, perhaps to avoid those dangers from which other animals flee. But it was never eaten.
Why are people eating it now?
In 2020, two scientists from the King’s College London carried out an investigation aimed at analyzing the reasons why some people decide to eat the placenta.
They focused especially on the study of the uk parenting forums, where many new mothers share their experiences. This allowed them to verify that the majority who make this decision are heterosexual, white, married, middle- or upper-class women.
In other words, privileged women, who do not need to eat the placenta at all. But then why do they do it? The reasons are very varied, although in this study they found that a good part of the women who do so report having made that decision for fear of later consequences. Some are women with previous mental health problems or who in previous pregnancies had complicated deliveries or postpartum depression.
This depression is due, among other reasons, to an abrupt drop in certain hormones after delivery. These are still in the placenta, so they believe that eating them again can help prevent depression. But there is no scientific evidence that this is the case.
It must be clear that if these women reach this decision it is because someone has told them that it can benefit them. Therefore, it is very important to take care of the information that is given in this regard.
The dangers of eating the placenta
If you have to be careful with this information, it is because eating the placenta can be very dangerous.
Generally, some precautions are taken, such as treating the placenta with hot steam, to eliminate possible pathogenic microorganisms. But this is not enough. Many can survive these treatments. Above all, it has been seen that the group B streptococci.
These bacteria can cause serious problems for newborn babies, even with an immature immune system. It has been seen that if mothers are infected, the bacteria can pass to the baby through milk. Therefore, eating the placenta is not only dangerous for mothers, it can also be very serious for their children.
What we can be sure of is that if wild animals that eat their placentas gave birth in a hospital, with all the necessary hygiene and safety measures, with a good diet and in a room, sheltered from any danger, they would not eat the placenta. If we are going to look at nature, we should also take that into account.