Placentophagy among women planning community births in the United States: Frequency, rationale, and associated neonatal outcomes

Birth. 2018 Dec;45(4):459-468. doi: 10.1111/birt.12354. Epub 2018 May 2.


Background: Limited systematic research on maternal placentophagy is available to maternity care providers whose clients/patients may be considering this increasingly popular practice. Our purpose was to characterize the practice of placentophagy and its attendant neonatal outcomes among a large sample of women in the United States.

Methods: We used a medical records-based data set (n = 23 242) containing pregnancy, birth, and postpartum information for women who planned community births. We used logistic regression to determine demographic and clinical predictors of placentophagy. Finally, we compared neonatal outcomes (hospitalization, neonatal intensive unit admission, or neonatal death in the first 6 weeks) between placenta consumers and nonconsumers, and participants who consumed placenta raw vs cooked.

Results: Nearly one-third (30.8%) of women consumed their placenta. Consumers were more likely to have reported pregravid anxiety or depression compared with nonconsumers. Most (85.3%) placentophagic mothers consumed their placentas in encapsulated form, and nearly half (48.4%) consumed capsules containing dehydrated, uncooked placenta. Placentophagy was not associated with any adverse neonatal outcomes. Women with home births were more likely to engage in placentophagy than women with birth center births. The most common reason given (73.1%) for engaging in placentophagy was to prevent postpartum depression. [Corrections added on 16 May 2018, after first online publication: The percentage values in the Results sections were updated.] CONCLUSIONS: The majority of women consumed their placentas in uncooked/encapsulated form and hoping to avoid postpartum depression, although no evidence currently exists to support this strategy. Preparation technique (cooked vs uncooked) did not influence adverse neonatal outcomes. Maternity care providers should discuss the range of options available to prevent/treat postpartum depression, in addition to current evidence with respect to the safety of placentophagy.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; placentophagia; postpartum health; “baby blues,”.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Home Childbirth / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Placenta*
  • Postnatal Care / methods
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • United States