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Placenta Pills: I Say 'No'

One mom gives her reaction to the idea of taking placenta pills after birth

Meredith Bland

Published on: July 06, 2015

There are a lot of things we're told are good for us that I refuse to take part in: kale, cloth diapers, not drinking Diet Coke and so on. Also on that list, and right near the tippy top, are placenta pills. For those of you who aren't be familiar with what these are, they are, unfortunately, exactly what they sound like: pills that are made out of your dehydrated and ground up placenta. 

The first question that came to mind when I heard about placenta pills was, “What?” The second question was, “For real?” And the third question was, “But why?!”

The word on the street is that eating your placenta helps aid in recovery from childbirth by leveling out your hormones. It is also supposed to increase milk production and give you energy. Studies on the effects of placenta pills, however, have been inconclusive: no one can say for sure that they do anything at all. Thus, most of the raves about placenta pills are anecdotes from women who have used them.three placenta pills

I have a friend — a woman I respect — who encapsulated her placenta and swears by it. She is a perfectly normal, wonderful, lovely person. So no, you don't have to be an uber-hippie weirdo to take placenta pills. But one thing you do have to be is not me. 

I get that the trend these days is to live as “naturally” as possible. We want to go back to the land, eating like cavemen and swallowing our own placentas. I am completely on board with many of these ideas, but not everything needs to be recycled, people. Some things are meant for the trash. They belong there. That is their homeland. There is a reason our body expels things and says, “No, thank you. You don't belong inside me anymore.” Putting them back in seems a little passive-aggressive to me. Your poor body is minding its own business, trying to do its many jobs, when you try to sneak a placenta pill into it. “What the — I just got rid of this! What is wrong with you? If we needed this, I would have kept it. It's like you don't trust me anymore. When have I ever lied to you — except for every time you drink gin?” 

One of the most persuasive selling points for placenta pills is, “Well, it's not like they're going to kill you so you might as well try them.” Which is fair, I suppose. Actress Alicia Silverstone, who has also said that her first 14 hours of labor were “sexy,” said the following about her placenta pills: “Someone gifted me my placenta in the form of a pill. I thought, 'That's harmless. I'll try it.' And I have to tell you that I really loved it.”

Just because you have done something I find bizarre and disgusting doesn't mean we can't be friends, right? Hey, I ate a dead fly at summer camp once. See, we are more alike than we are unalike.

Okay. I guess I can see that, Alicia. But I have a quick question for you: what do you mean when you say that “someone” gave you the gift of your placenta in pill form? Are you unclear about who did this? Did you not notice the person at your child's birth who decided that since no one else seemed to want your placenta that they were just going to tuck it under their shirt and take it home with them? Do you have no clue who among your friends and family saw your placenta and began coming up with craft ideas? This would be like a friend showing up at my door with a milkshake and saying, “I saw all this breastmilk in your freezer that no one was using, so I thought I'd make it into food for you.”

That's a friend who needs a talking to about boundaries, Alicia. Stat.

But “what the hell” isn't the only reason given to take placenta pills. Another pro-placenta argument is that most mammals eat their placentas instinctually so it must have a benefit. You know what my dog also does by instinct? He eats feral cat poop in our backyard.

I'll pass.

While I understand that there is little downside but are possible upsides to taking placenta pills, it is something I will never do. I have little to no interest in eating anything that comes from my body, and I have a strong gag reflex. To each her own. However, if you did this and found it helpful then let me be the first to give you a high five. Just because you have done something I find bizarre and disgusting doesn't mean we can't be friends, right? Hey, I ate a dead fly at summer camp once. See, we are more alike than we are unalike.

I do worry about where things like swallowing placenta pills and having home births without a doctor or midwife are taking us. Hear me now — in 10 years women are going to insist on breaking umbilical cords with their teeth. Women will be crawling on their hands and knees during heavy labor to the nearest park so that they can give birth under a tree.

As for me, I will support their rights to make these decisions even though I won't understand them or want to participate.

I will also be dry-heaving.

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