Maybe don’t eat that placenta: Oregon woman passes infection to baby from placenta

Kim Kardashian West did it. Actress January Jones did it. Heck, most wild mammals do it.

But researchers are warning against women trying to ward off postpartum symptoms by eating their placentas.

An Oregon woman tried it by having her placenta turned into pills that she took two at a time, three times a day. Doctors from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say she unknowinglypassed an infection present in the placenta to her newborn during nursing.

The baby lived, but the case illustrates the risk in eating placentas.

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” says a new article in the weekly CDC newsletter and written by two doctors from Portland hospitals and four scientists from the state Health Authority and federal CDC.

The trend has outpaced scientific research on whether ingesting placenta has any real health benefits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against cooking, making capsules or even sucking a placenta down in a smoothie.

In the Oregon case, an infant fell sick shortly after birth and was diagnosed with a strep infection. The baby was given medication for 11 days and allowed to leave the hospital.

But the baby was back five days later — this time in the emergency room. During that stay, the doctor found out that the mother had sent her placenta to a company that cleans, slices and dehydrates placentas and turns them into about 115 to 200 gel capsules.

Bacteria for strep was found in the placenta. The CDC article says it’s possible other family members passed the infection to the baby, but the doctors said it most likely was from the placenta.

It’s possible the company that made the pills didn’t cook the placenta long enough or at a high enough temperature to kill all the bacteria, the authors surmised.

Tens of thousands of women in the U.S. eat their placentas now, according to a study from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. It’s also becoming more popular in Europe and Australia.

Proponents says it boosts breastmilk production, increases energy, improves moods and helps women quickly recover from birth. However, no scientific study has been able to corroborate these results.

Some people also turn their placenta into T-shirts, art, jewelry, body salves — or just symbolically planting it.

— Molly Harbarger

mharbarger@oregonian.com
503-294-5923
@MollyHarbarger

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