The Government Warns Against Eating Your Placenta

Among other dangers, placenta pills could carry dangerous bacteria.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Mothers of newborns should not take pills containing their placenta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned yesterday. The advisory came after doctors linked a newborn’s case of a dangerous infection—called group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteremia—to her mother’s consumption of the baby’s placenta, dehydrated and encapsulated.

The trend of new mothers dosing themselves with placenta pills has taken off in the last few years, with encapsulation companies claiming that consumption of placenta can boost mothers’ energy, help them produce more milk, and ward off postpartum depression. Here’s how it works: After the baby is born, the hospital preserves the placenta—the organ that connects a fetus to the uterine wall and provides nutrition during gestation—for the family to take home. With some services, the family then sends the placenta to a facility for dehydration and encapsulation; other companies send a technician to the home with a food dehydrator and encapsulation supplies. Over the next few weeks, the mother consumes the capsules.  

The pills spiked in popularity in 2015 when Kim Kardashian, then pregnant with her son, Saint, wrote that she planned to take them. “I heard so many stories when I was pregnant with North of moms who never ate their placenta with their first baby and then had postpartum depression, but then when they took the pills with their second baby, they did not suffer from depression!” she wrote. “So I thought, why not try it? What do I have to lose?”

But scientists say there is no evidence to support claims of any health or psychological benefits of consuming the placenta. Furthermore, as this 2016 review in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing noted, placenta pills are not regulated—so there’s no way to know what’s actually inside them, or what goes on during the manufacturing process. That leaves women who consume the pills vulnerable to infection, environmental toxins, and exposure to potentially dangerous levels of hormones.

In the case that spurred the CDC’s warning, a newborn who was having trouble breathing was rushed to the emergency room and eventually diagnosed with GBS bacteremia. (Before giving birth, the infant’s mother had undergone a routine test for GBS—it was negative.) After samples from the disease infant’s blood matched ones from the placenta capsules that the baby’s mother had consumed, scientists concluded that the most likely source of the infection was contact with the mother, who had almost certainly contracted the bacteria from the pills but showed no symptoms of the illness herself. Luckily, the infant survived after a hospital stay and an intensive course of antibiotics.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend