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A Most Unusual Lunch: Placenta

I received an attention-grabbing e-mail the other day -- one that took me a while to, er, digest.

It came from a lively online Web site called MomLogic, where people write all kinds of parenting tips and information.

This particular bit of information was about one mother's experience eating the placenta she'd delivered with her newborn baby. The e-mail leads with a color photo of a big sandwich: a hefty roll containing a bright-red filling. That would be the placenta. You could be easily forgiven for not wanting to look at it.

I could have lived without the placenta sandwich's landing unannounced in my inbox; I'm glad I didn't open it a lunchtime. (Nor was I thrilled by the second photo, of placenta-topped pasta.) But while I am not inclined to eat a placenta myself, the woman writing about her experience seemed to get a lot out of it.

Non-human mammals have consumed placentas for ages, and some women value the placenta for the vitamin- and hormone-rich blood it contains; those who espouse placentophagia (the practice of eating placenta) say it curbs post-partum depression and spurs milk production, among other benefits.

But the medical community's not convinced.

Let's hear it. What do you think of placentophagia? And what's your impression of this woman's sharing her experience -- and her photos -- with the world?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Motherhood , Women's Health  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Soda Tax, Food Policy and Politics
Next: What to Eat in the Company Caf


Her and other childbirth nazi's (LaLeche League, Natural Childbirth police) need to get over themselves. FAST!

Posted by: HeathenChemist | April 13, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Many "non-human mammals" frequently consume the newborn as well. Bon appetit, wackos!

Really? In a developed 21st century nation? Too much idle time on your hands, ladies.

Posted by: sivaDseliM | April 13, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

YUMMO!!Sounds delish

Posted by: devilsadvoc8 | April 13, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The linked article describes a placenta as meat-sensible since it is neither vegetable, mineral or fungus. Consuming meat that comes from a human is cannibalism, likewise chewing your fingernails. If that's your bag, more power to you, no hatin' here, just to each her own.

Posted by: set_the_controls | April 13, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

WOW, I actually have experienced the flavor of placenta.

It's 1972, my viet nam tour ended in may of '71, ended up in L.A., started school, got a year into it before ,(What we now call ptsd) reared its ugly head, dropped out, hitched hiked north and ended up in a commune, Wheelers ranch in sonoma county, a 360 acre community, My name was "back of the land Butch".

I built a split level house on the side of the mountain at the back of the land, cost me all of $250, for the redwood tailings , that's split lumber with bark on one side and flat on the other, and a whole bank of recycled windows from the junk yard. Met a lady named Eileen who was pregnant, we moved in together and started a family.

I had to make sure everything was in order and ready for when the waters broke, that entailed hauling water from the canyon base where a spring was, making sure there was enough wood split for fire and plenty of clean rags.

Jade River, was born after 22 hrs. of labor, about 6:30am, after we cleaned up
and Eileen was resting, the fire is roaring and warm, I decided to grease up the cast iron pans, mixed up some powered eggs,sauteed some onions and bell peppers
in butter, and in the other pan I placed the placenta over low heat and pan fried it!

To be honest, it tasted like a mild liver, We finished the meal and in hours Eileen was refreshed and up and at it.

I got the idea of preparing the placenta
from the native indians in Montana, We were neighbors and friends, but this is standard procedure for the women of the tribe, rich in iron, vitamin b12 and A. It did what energy drinks do today, POW, energy to spare!

Have a good lunch!

Posted by: victorlove1 | April 13, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The placenta is an organ of the child that is lost during or shortly after childbirth. It is NOT the mother's organ.

It is a repository of a large amount of nutrients taken from the mother's body; no matter that the medical community is of mixed mind about benefits of consuming it. Well-fed women of first world nations probably do not have a physiological neeed for it; but it is easily justifiable for 3rd world nation's women to consume it.

Yes, it is cannibalism. You're eating a human organ and tissue. Let's ratchet it up one more level. Your child is still-born. Obviously the baby doesn't need the body any more, it's dead. Are you going to eat the body? Fry it up with bacon and onions for lunch? How about we crank it up yet another level. Instead of burying people, or cremating them when they die; we have them for dinner? Wouldn't be nearly as tender as a stillborn child though. And newborns haven't picked up any diseases for us to worry about; unlike older human animals. Why I bet if we had had my grandmother, she was so tough, we'd have had to stew her for a week and still chew for hours.

Posted by: mhoust | April 13, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Let's all admit what's really going on here. There is no physiological need to eat it. The benefit is PURELY for the parents to be able to tell everyone they did it. The norther CA hippie who told his story above got immense satisfaction in being able to retell his tale again. I'll bet he feels superior to us rubes who allowed our wives placentas to be discarded. I didn't see anything in his self-congratulatory tale to suggest ANY other benefit.

Posted by: HeathenChemist | April 13, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Dear HeathenChemist-
I have been a LaLeche League leader for over 20 years and can tell you that in all that time I have only ONCE heard anyone at a meeting mention this practice. It was 1986 in Cambridge,MA and a vegan young mother-to-be came to a meeting specifically to ask about recipes, convinced she needed the nutrients. None of the 5 leaders present had ever done this and although one non-leader attendee had a suggestion based on what a friend from Berkeley, CA had done, it made very very clear that this was NOT an endorsed LLLI practice. I have attended and led meetings over 400 meetings and never had it come up again before or since. So don't blame La Leche League. Women do not need to eat placenta to breastfeed, even if they are vegan.

Posted by: Judy9 | April 13, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I bet our ancestor moms were placenta munchers - they couldn't afford to be choosy.

Posted by: jimward21 | April 13, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Back in my West Philly days, there was a group called MOVE, who were a kind of back to nature cult which was actually bombed out by the police. They would insist upon having the placenta saved for consumption when their female members went into the hospital to give birth.

Posted by: Dipsy1 | April 13, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I remember hearing about women doing this even 30 years ago when I first gave birth. But those were people pretty much steeped in hippie culture and a back-to-nature philosophy. Nowadays it strikes me as yet another manifestation of modern narcissism, especially because the photos and descriptions can be transmitted far and wide via the Internet, email, cellphones, etc. It's TMI.

Posted by: dacbf | April 13, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

HeathenChemist - Wow! Pretty defensive, aren't we? The article doesn't even mention natural childbirth! But since you asked, as a pro-natural birth mom, I don't really care much about how you delivered your baby. Really, I don't. I am, however, in favor of every single birthing woman getting a full and accurate picture of her choices and the risks associated with each choice. Then, and only then, can she give informed consent for any medical care she receives. But women rarely get the full picture, and this is why 1 in 3 women will end up with major surgery on her baby's birthday. I know from's a tough start to parenthood.

While we're talking about choice, consider this...half the hospitals in the US do not allow women to choose a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) though it is a clinically sound option. OBs routinely frighten mothers into inductions and cesareans they do not need. They do this out of convenience, or fear of liability, not out of concern for their patients. If you dare challenge your OB's advice, then you risk having social services called on you. OBs routinely disparage the care that midwives provide to women, practically conducting "witch-hunts" in communities around the country, even though midwifery is considered the "gold standard" of care for normal healthy women in many other countries. These are countries that have have better maternal and neonatal outcomes than we do in the US, which is not hard to do since we lag so far behind(we rank about 40th down the list in maternal and infant deaths...not good).

So, if you're going to throw around a term like "Nazi" in a discussion like this, please at least apply it to the right group.

Any woman interested in protecting herself from poor-mediocre maternity practices should start reading. Start with "Pushed" by Jennifer Block and the "Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Birth" by Henci Goer.

Posted by: beedeegirl | April 13, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Non-human mammals also clean up their newborns' poo by eating it. Can't wait to see that attachment.

Posted by: di89 | April 14, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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