A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that placenta pills could be harmful. Eating placenta has become a trend among some new mothers, who eat it after giving birth.

The trend became popular because its advocates claim that eating placenta can boost a new mother’s recovery and helps prevent postpartum depression through its nutrients. Some businesses have even started selling freeze-dried placenta pills on the market.

Image credit: Stayathomemum.com.au
Image credit: Stayathomemum.com.au

However, the practice might not be as beneficial as some people think, as placenta consumption was linked to an Oregon infant born in September 2016 being diagnosed with a strep infection, according to the CDC.

Infected placenta capsules resulted in a child’s development of strep infection

The infant was diagnosed with a case of late-onset group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteria in September 2016, several days after he received treatment for early-onset GBS bacteremia. The baby had born at term following a complicated pregnancy, and shortly after birth, the infant presented signs of respiratory distress, which led doctors to presume the presence of sepsis.

The baby received antibiotic treatment and was discharged. However, five days later the baby had to be taken to another hospital due to irritability, and when doctors conducted blood tests and found that the breast milk drank by the infant tested positive for strep infection, and the exams didn’t reveal a source.

Three days after the infant was admitted, the treating physician was notified by a doctor from the birth hospital that the mother had requested a release of her placenta at the time of delivery, and she confirmed registering with Company A to pick up and encapsulate the placenta for ingestion.

The infant was diagnosed with a case of late-onset group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteria in September 2016. Image credit: Babycenter.com
The infant was diagnosed with a case of late-onset group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteria in September 2016. Image credit: Babycenter.com

“Three days after the infant’s birth, the mother had received the dehydrated, encapsulated placenta and began ingesting two capsules three times daily,” noted the CDC in its report published Friday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “The physician instructed the mother to stop consuming the capsules.”

The doctors then tested the capsules and results showed they contained GBS, meaning they tested positive for strep infection. The CDC report said that the pills likely enhanced the strep bacteria present in the mother’s intestines and skin, from which the baby contracted the bacteria.

Researchers said manufacturer of placenta pills don’t eradicate all the bacteria in the placenta

The researchers noted that placental tissue could harbor different types of bacteria and pose risks when consumed raw. However, even dried, cooked, or preserved placenta can also transmit bacteria that may result in an infection.

“Placenta ingestion has recently been prompted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking,” said the CDC in its report. “Placental tissue is consumed raw or prepared by cooking, desiccation, preservation, and other modalities.”

The report also explained that expectant mothers who register for Company A’s services before delivery are required to report pre-existing infections such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, and Lyme disease; but they aren’t required to report any intra- or postpartum infections.

Company A’s website claims that the placenta is cleaned, sliced, and dehydrated, then ground and placed into about 115 to 200 gelatin capsules, before they are stored at room temperature, said the CDC. The federal health agency also noted that there aren’t any standards for processing human placenta for consumption.

Although it’s required that the placenta is heated at 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes to reduce Salmonella bacteria, heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease the strep bacteria (GBS) might not have been reached.

The doctors believe that consumption of the contaminated placenta capsules might have elevated maternal GBS intestinal and skin colonization, which resulted in the new mother passing the infection to her newborn baby.

The only mammal mothers who don’t eat the placenta are camels and humans

The authors stressed that the placenta encapsulation process does not eradicate any infection pathogens, so they highly discourage the practice.

“Placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” said the CDC. “In cases of maternal GBS colonization, chorioamnionitis, or early-onset neonatal GBS infection, ingestion of capsules containing contaminated placenta could heighten maternal colonization, thereby increasing an infant’s risk for late-onset neonatal GBS infection.”

A spokesperson with the CDC stated the agency had not taken a formal position on placenta pills yet and that the warning against them was the report authors’ own conclusion, according to Tech Times.

The placenta grows inside the uterus during a woman’s pregnancy, and it provides oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Most mammal mothers, except for camels and humans, consume it after giving birth. In ancient China, grounded placenta was even used as a form of treatment in medicine.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention