Comparison of placenta consumers' and non-consumers' postpartum depression screening results using EPDS in US community birth settings (n=6038): a propensity score analysis

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2023 Jul 22;23(1):534. doi: 10.1186/s12884-023-05852-7.


Background: Preventing postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common self-reported motivation for human maternal placentophagy, yet very little systematic research has assessed mental health following placenta consumption. Our aim was to compare PPD screening scores of placenta consumers and non-consumers in a community birth setting, using propensity score matching to address anticipated extensive confounding.

Methods: We used a medical records-based data set (n = 6038) containing pregnancy, birth, and postpartum information for US women who planned and completed community births. We first compared PPD screening scores as measured by the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) of individuals who consumed their placenta to those who did not, with regard to demographics, pregnancy characteristics, and history of mental health challenges. Matching placentophagic (n = 1876) and non-placentophagic (n = 1876) groups were then created using propensity scores. The propensity score model included more than 90 variables describing medical and obstetric history, demographics, pregnancy characteristics, and intrapartum and postpartum complications, thus addressing confounding by all of these variables. We then used logistic regression to compare placentophagic to non-placentophagic groups based on commonly-cited EPDS cutoff values (≥ 11; ≥ 13) for likely PPD.

Results: In the unmatched and unadjusted analysis, placentophagy was associated with an increased risk of PPD. In the matched sample, 9.9% of women who ate their placentas reported EPDS ≥ 11, compared to 8.4% of women who did not (5.5% and 4.8%, respectively, EPDS ≥ 13 or greater). After controlling for over 90 variables (including prior mental health challenges) in the matched and adjusted analysis, placentophagy was associated with an increased risk of PPD between 15 and 20%, depending on the published EPDS cutoff point used. Numerous sensitivity analyses did not alter this general finding.

Conclusions: Placentophagic individuals in our study scored higher on an EPDS screening than carefully matched non-placentophagic controls. Why placentophagic women score higher on the EPDS remains unclear, but we suspect reverse causality plays an important role. Future research could assess psychosocial factors that may motivate some individuals to engage in placentophagy, and that may also indicate greater risk of PPD.

Keywords: Community birth; Placentophagia; Placentophagy; Postpartum depression; Propensity score analysis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Birth Setting
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Placenta
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Propensity Score