Famous people like January Jones, Kourtney Kardashian, and Gaby Hoffmann have been known to publicly extol the virtues of eating placenta, either in dehydrated pill form or frozen and blended into delightful smoothies.
Placentophagy, as this strange practice is called, is often touted as a remedy for postpartum depression and a way to speed recovery after labor by helping the uterus contract.
But it might actually be totally bogus: Researchers at Northwestern University reviewed ten studies on the subject (four human and six animal) and found that there's actually no evidence that placenta in any form can help with depression, lactation, maternal bonding, or pain relief. In fact, they found that there was no proof that consuming one's placenta does anything at all. And doctors, the study determined, simply don't know enough about the potential risks to recommend it, especially if new moms are breast-feeding.
“Our sense is that people aren’t making this decision based on science or talking with physicians. Some women are making this based on media reports, blogs, and websites,” said the report's co-author, Crystal Clark, M.D., M.Sc.
NPR reports that researchers at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas are conducting the first randomized controlled double-blind study on the effects of placenta capsules (meaning there will be a control group that takes a placebo and neither the participants nor the investigators will know which group is which until the data comes back). The study should be released in the next year. Until then, new moms should stick to their boring but proven kale-spinach smoothie.