Get the scoop on placentophagy

Moms share their postpartum stories

Erica Chase-Salerno of New Paltz was the first person I knew who consumed her placenta post-childbirth. Chase-Salerno vividly recalls her first week mothering baby Quinn back in 2006, which she spent primarily in bed snuggling her newborn.

Next to a bowl containing her placenta.

Throughout the first days of motherhood, Chase-Salerno consumed pieces of her daughter's raw placenta. Chase-Salerno states, "I swallowed a piece of it whole, thankful that the ordeal was over," and adds with an air of finality, "And that was it."

A little over a decade later, moms who choose to practice placentophagy (the act of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth) have other methods that are more popular.

Pass the placenta
Modern-day moms-to-be often seek out professional placenta encapsulation services to assist them.

Certified placenta encapsulation specialists pick up placentas from a mother's home or the hospital after birth, and then steam, dehydrate, and grind them up, and place them into capsules. Typically, pills are ingested throughout the birthing parent's postpartum period.

READ MORE: 4 common breastfeeding questions answered!

Courtney Durfee, RN, doula, certified lactation counselor, Association of placenta preparation arts certified provider (APPAC), and founder of Hudson Valley Placenta Services, explains the two methods APPAC's use for encapsulation. "With the more common, traditional method the placenta is steamed before dehydration. With the raw method, the placenta is not steamed at all." Durfee adds, "Food research shows that cooking, such as the steaming of the
traditional method, makes certain nutrients more bioavailable so that is the method I tend to prefer."

In addition to encapsulation, there are various, less common methods of placenta consumption. Alternatives to pills include blended smoothies, incorporating placenta into recipes and meals (there are even cookbooks you can buy), and for the more upscale, placenta truffles! Placenta tinctures can also be prepared, and typically contain a raw placenta piece submerged in vodka, which reportedly can ease many symptoms of distress.

Moms reap the benefits of placenta consumption
Currently, demand for placenta encapsulation services are on the rise. Celebrity moms like Chrissy Teigen, January Jones and Kim Kardashian have spoken openly about having positive postpartum experiences due to placenta pills. Their influence likely bears some of the responsibility for the uptick in popularity.

However, the proposed benefits of consuming placenta are also incredibly motivating by themselves. Bambini Pediatrics nurse practitioner Sarah Sercombe, CPNP-BC, cites commonly reported benefits of placentophagy as follows: decreased risk of postpartum depression, increased iron stores, increased milk supply and improved energy. Additionally, according to PSP Courtney Durfee, the most common reason birthing parents seek out her services is because of negative previous postpartum experiences.

Over the past decade, I have crossed paths with several women who chose to ingest their placentas, mostly via encapsulation. Every one of them described the practice as beneficial to their postpartum mental and physical health. Hearing these stories led me to start contemplating placentophagy for myself as my husband and I began trying to conceive another child. Shortly after our second daughter arrived, a nurse placed my placenta in a cooler on ice and handed it off to my husband. He, in turn, transferred my placenta to our waiting PSP standing in the hospital lobby.

My reasons for consuming my placenta were not unlike other's. A difficult postpartum experience with my first child had elicited fears of a repeat experience with my second.

I certainly wasn't alone in my worries. Kingston mother of five Julia Shober had a mindset very similar to mine. "I had heard about the benefits of ingesting placenta," says Shober. "After having a rough time following the birth of my second child, I decided to give it a try. I took the pills for the first few months after the birth of my third son and felt more energetic and less depleted."

Like Shober, ingesting my encapsulated placenta led to a much-improved postpartum experience. Over several months post-childbirth, while I took my placenta pills I found my moods less extreme, my milk supply much improved and my energy level way up.

My placenta yielded a total of 219 capsules (which is atypical; 80-120 pills per placenta is more the norm). My amazed PSP told me my placenta was the largest she'd ever seen! Additionally, she prepared me a placenta tincture, which I plan to use during menopause. She also gave me two placenta prints, both of which are currently framed and displayed in my living room.

Where’s the proof?
Sercombe advises, "Medically, there are no proven benefits to
placentophagy." She adds, "Effects are still being studied. Some of the positive benefits of placenta pills could be credited to having a placebo effect on postpartum health." However, she continues, "Risk-wise, there are no negative effects."

Placebo effect or not, facts are facts: the time that I took encapsulated
placenta pills was a significantly better experience postpartum than the time that I did not. What the real reason is for that, I do not know with certainty. What I do know is this: I am grateful for placentophagy, and I would absolutely do it again.

The results are in!
We asked our followers on social media to weigh in on the idea of placenta consumption!

We polled our moms to find out how many had consumed their placenta after giving birth.

8 percent said yes.
92 percent said no.

Would you give it a try with your next baby? Let us know!

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator and lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley. In the wee hours of the evening she moonlights as an essayist, wannabe novelist and classic rock mommy review blogger. To read more, visit her website at