Eating placenta actually doesn't help with iron deficiency, says groundbreaking study

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The study revealed that, contrary to what advocates of the practice say, eating placenta does nothing to remedy iron deficiency.

A few years ago, most women would balk at the idea of eating their own placenta. But lately, eating your placenta—or placentophagy—is becoming more and more prevalent. One might even call it a trend.

Moms who choose to eat their own placenta do it for many reasons. According to What to Expect, they do it to battle postpartum depression, increase their milk supply, and relieve their pain. Some do it for the said nutritional benefits—placenta is supposedly rich in iron.

While there has been no evidence to prove the benefits of eating placenta, one recent study has found that eating placenta, in fact, does not have any iron benefits. The study, which was the first of its kind on placentophagy, was conducted with 23 women. 10 women took placenta capsules for 3 weeks, while 13 women were given placebo pills. The results revealed that there were no differences in the women’s iron levels.

“Almost no clinical studies have been conducted to assess [placentophagy’s] possible health benefits or risks”

eating placenta

Photo: Jonny Hunter/Flickr

“Human placentophagy appears to be an increasingly popular practice in the US and abroad, and yet almost no clinical studies have been conducted to assess its possible health benefits or risks,” senior co-author Daniel Benyshek said in a media release.

“While there may indeed be other benefits for women who eat their placenta after birth, the common practice of consuming the placenta in capsule form in the first few weeks after delivery does not appear to significantly improve iron levels for new mothers.”

This study and its findings are important because the body demands much more iron during pregnancy, and so postpartum iron deficiency is a common occurrence. Though taking placenta pills isn’t harmful, women shouldn’t depend on them to battle iron deficiency.

On the next page: more on iron deficiency and remedies that (unlike eating placenta) actually work.

What is iron deficiency?

According to BabyCenter, we all need iron to produce haemoglobin, which is the component of your blood that stores and carries oxygen. Iron keeps our energy levels up and is vital for our mental and physical health. When our body doesn’t have enough iron, we become more susceptible to infections like coughs and cold, and are more vulnerable to postpartum depression.

Iron deficiency typically makes you feel dizzy or unusually tired. However, because most new moms are fatigued by default (because of the screaming baby), you can also look for other symptoms such as:

  • palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • a paler complexion
  • cravings for foods like crunchy vegetables
  • changes in your sense of taste
  • ringing in your ears
  • a sore tongue
  • headaches
  • itching
eating placenta

Photo: Dreamstime

What should you do?

If you think you have iron deficiency, you should first consult a doctor so you can get a blood test and get the right treatment. According to IronDeficiency.com, you can treat iron deficiency by eating iron-rich foods like red meat, liver, enriched cereals, and leafy greens. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron.

Your doctor could also give you iron supplements or, in more serious cases, deliver iron directly into your bloodstream via an IV.

READ: Iron Supplements during Pregnancy

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