Mums who consume placenta pills after delivery swear by its physical and psychological benefits. Celebrities like Kim Kadarshian have frequently endorsed them as the magical cure for postpartum depression.
But doctors at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently issued a warning, that will make most mums think twice before consumption of their own placenta. Read on…
Placenta pills cause newborn’s bacterial infection
Doctors first realised something was terribly wrong when they observed that a little baby born at term, and out of an uncomplicated pregnancy was being frequently admitted for Strep B bacterial infection.
According to the CDC newsletter, shortly after birth, this infant developed signs of respiratory distress and reports revealed a deadly blood infection known as GBS (late-onset group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteremia). The infant was discharged and went home after completing an 11-day course of antibiotics.
Image source: File photo
Shockingly, just 5 days later, the infant had to be taken to the emergency department because of irritability and was admitted to a second hospital. He was diagnosed with GBS again. Doctors suspected that something else was the culprit here.
And then, they got their answer. They found out that the mum had encapsulated her placenta for ingestion, and 3 days after the infant’s birth, she had been ingesting two placenta capsules three times daily.
Apparently, while she was ingesting placenta, the mum was also breastfeeding, which transferred the infection from mother to child. The mum was asked to stop consuming the capsules immediately.
According to the CDC newsletter, “A sample of the capsules was cultured, yielding penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-sensitive GBS.”
The infant, meanwhile, had to be treated with ampicillin for 14 days and gentamicin for the first 6 days before being discharged home.
The CDC notes that usually, “The placenta is cleaned, sliced, and dehydrated at 115°F–160°F (46°C–71°C), then ground and placed into about 115–200 gelatin capsules, and stored at room temperature.”
What is worrying though is that, “No standards exist for processing placenta for consumption. Heating at 130°F (54°C) for 121 minutes is required to reduce Salmonella bacterial counts by 7 log10 (6). In this case, heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease GBS bacterial counts might not have been reached.”
Finally, the CDC gives a compelling warning to all mums, “The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided.”
Placenta pills in Singapore
How common is the ingestion of placenta pills in Singapore?
According to a Channel NewsAsia report, the number of mums embracing this fad is on the rise, as is the number of placenta encapsulation companies. Followers claim that it increases milk production, improves mood and energy levels and offers nutritional benefits…
It is important to note though, that placenta encapsulation companies are not tracked and regulated by the authorities, though hospitals and businesses usually have their own safeguards in place in case mummies want to save their placentas.
Make it known in your birth plan that you want to encapsulate your placenta. Your doctor and nurses/midwives with them handle it with care to prevent contamination. | Image source: File photo
For instance, at Thomson Medical Centre, mothers who want to keep their placenta need to sign a consent form to absolve the hospital of any liability. They are not required to state their purpose of collection.
Dr Tan Toh Lick, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Thomson Women’s Clinic has been quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying “When the placenta is delivered, the midwife will generally check that the placenta has come out completely, and make sure there are no bits left behind. The placenta is usually rinsed and put into a plastic bag with the patient’s label and given to the husband. It’s all done in the delivery room so there’s no risk of it being mixed up with another patient’s.”
However, studies have shown no real benefits in ingesting the placenta, and Dr. Tan says, “There are no robust studies that support this practice. Most of the quotes that people use that say there are benefits, come from observations of women who take it and report feeling better.”
“But this may be very subjective, and you cannot say whether it was the placenta that has changed the outcome of say, milk production, or whether it’s just the natural progression of things.”
Are all placentas suitable for consumption?
Image source: iStock
According to placenta encapsulation specialist Ashley, almost all placentas are safe for consumption, regardless of whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, have a premature birth or have twins.
However, there are a few instances when they may not be suitable. Examples are when the mum has HIV, hepatitis A, B or C, or any sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Your placenta will also be suitable for encapsulation even if you need to take antibiotics during your pregnancy for whatever reason. However, Ashley says, “If you experience a uterine or placental infection during labour, that would render the placenta unsuitable for encapsulation”.
Usually, the placenta encapsulation specialist will ask to see your most recent blood test report before going ahead with the encapsulation process.
However, Dr Christopher Chong, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital tells Channel NewsAsia. “The placenta is like an air-con filter. It’s got dirty products that are left there and not passed on to the baby. So in common sense, would anyone want to eat the filter?”
Hmm…what do you think, mums?
Also READ: Would you eat your own placenta?
(Source: CDC, Channel NewsAsia)