Q: Everyone says eating placenta is supposed to increase milk supply, so why is this website saying the opposite?
A: There is no evidence nor physiological basis for placenta ingestion increasing milk supply. Placenta encapsulation advertising promotes this idea, but many lactation consultants are seeing a lowering of milk supply as a direct effect of placenta ingestion.
Q: I hear women say they ate their placenta and had plenty of milk, so why is this website saying it causes low milk supply?
A: Many lactation consultants are reporting that some women who feel they have a great milk supply following placenta consumption, in fact, have babies with unrecognized red flag feeding patterns and very poor weight gain. Placenta contains the hormones that can suppress milk supply.
Q: I ate my placenta and my baby nurses all the time, so I have plenty of milk.
A: Adequate weight gain is the best indicator of a full milk supply. Babies who breastfeed with prolonged feedings virtually around the clock may be exhibiting a feeding pattern that is a red flag for low milk supply, not an oversupply. Monitoring baby’s weight gain is important, especially if you are ingesting pregnancy hormones.
Q: Aren’t there research studies that show that eating placenta increases milk supply?
A: There are no valid scientific research studies showing that placenta ingestion increases milk supply. The studies that are often referred to are from 1918 and 1954 and are widely considered unscientific in their methods, which invalidates their conclusions.
Q: Eating placenta pills is not the same as birth control pills or having a retained placenta, so it won’t negatively affect my milk supply.
A: Eating placenta is giving your body the same hormones as taking birth control pills or having a retained placenta, which are estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are known to suppress milk supply.
Q: Is eating placenta in a smoothie more natural, as I would not be taking it for too long, which could help to prevent complications with my milk supply?
A: There is no safe way to ingest placenta. The smoothie form uses raw placenta, which has high levels of hormones and bacteria. The hormones can have a significant negative impact on milk supply both in the short and long term of breastfeeding. The bacteria found in raw placenta poses an infection risk.
Q: I was told to wait a couple of weeks to start taking placenta pills so it doesn’t affect my milk coming in.
A: Eating placenta at any point can negatively impact milk supply. There is no safe time for a breastfeeding mother to start ingesting her placenta. Many cases have been reported by lactation consultants of low milk supply following placenta ingestion starting at varying times postpartum.
Hormones in Placenta
Q: Since placentas contain POEF (placenta opioid enhancing factor), isn’t that something that I can be benefiting from by eating it?
A: Placentas do not have an active form of POEF after a few minutes from delivery. POEF is designed for animals to get pain relief while in labor and delivering multiple babies in isolation. POEF is inactive after a matter of minutes, and will not be available in placenta pills or any stored placenta products.
Q: What about all the hormones the placenta pills have in them, shouldn’t I be taking them to put those hormones back into my body?
A: The hormonal content in placenta pills has been researched, and they contain estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are not beneficial to a postpartum woman and can cause negative effects on her milk supply. The hormones that a postpartum woman needs are different, and already naturally made by her body when breastfeeding.
Q: Isn’t eating my placenta going to give me extra doses of oxytocin to help me with breastfeeding?
A: Oxytocin is not active in prepared placenta pills. The body naturally produces oxytocin as needed. Giving a woman an additional source of oxytocin can actually backfire and cause a reduction both in the body’s own production of as well as in its innate response to this hormone.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Q: Doesn’t our body need the hormones we lose when we deliver the placenta to prevent the “baby blues”?
A: Our bodies are designed to complete the natural hormonal cycle of childbirth into the postpartum time without any interference. The pregnancy hormones are not meant to be in our body after the birth, and in fact, they interfere with the lactation hormones needed at that time. The “baby blues” are due to a natural transitioning of hormones and are not meant to be prevented.
Q: Doesn’t giving birth cause too much of a drop off of hormones for our body to handle?
A: Transitioning from the pregnancy hormonal state to the postpartum hormonal state is a natural process that is not harmful and should not be prevented. Baby blues are not the same as postpartum depression.
Q: I ate my placenta and I had so much energy, so I feel this prevented me from having postpartum depression (PPD).
A: The unnaturally high energy that placenta pills may give women does not mean it is preventing postpartum depression. Research studies have shown that placenta pills do not prevent PPD. See the research on PPD causes and prevention.
Q: Animals eat their placentas and they don’t have any problems with milk supply, so why can’t humans?
A: Animals have evolved to eat their placenta instantly and completely at birth. Humans have not evolved to do so, nor have humans evolved to eat their placenta over a period of days and weeks. Continuous consumption of these pregnancy hormones through ongoing ingestion of the placenta may cause low milk supply.
Q: Haven’t humans been eating their placenta for thousands of years, and we have just gotten out of touch with this postpartum practice?
A: It has never been a human practice for postpartum women to eat their placenta. Extensive anthropological research has found that there are no cultural practices at any point in time that involved maternal placentophagy. Cultural practices involve ceremonial disposal of the placenta. Maternal placentophagy is a new trend.
Q: Your placenta is made by your body, so how could it be harmful to eat it?
A: Placenta is an important organ that your body makes for pregnancy. However, that doesn’t mean it is harmless to consume it. Placentas contain potent hormones and numerous bacteria which are not meant to be eaten. See how traditional cultures honor the placenta.
Q: There isn’t really anything in the placenta pills, so what’s the harm if someone wants to eat their own placenta?
A: There are sex steroid hormones in the placenta that have the potential for negatively impacting a postpartum woman’s hormonal levels needed for breastfeeding. There are also high levels of bacteria found in placenta that could cause infection if ingested.
Q: Isn’t eating your placenta the natural thing to do?
A: Postpartum women eating their placenta is not a natural practice, as it is not a traditional human practice in any culture throughout history. Even though it is an organ the body produces, eating the placenta may alter a mother’s natural postpartum hormonal state, causing potential for negative effects on her milk supply.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Q: Placenta is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), so how can there be anything harmful about it?
A: TCM, in their ancient texts, actually does not include postpartum women consuming their placenta. Placenta use is contraindicated for the postpartum time according to TCM principals.
Placenta Products for Children
Q: My baby’s placenta was made for him, so isn’t giving him the placenta like giving him a medicine made just for him?
A: The placenta was made for growing the baby during the pregnancy, not to feed to the baby after the birth. There are no human cultures throughout time who have fed babies or children their placenta, and there is no medical indication to do so. There are sex steroid hormones in the placenta that should not be given to babies and children. There are also high levels of bacteria found in the placenta that could cause infection if ingested.
Check to see how your baby is growing:
Link to growth charts on the Resource Downloads page