Would you, could you, swallow your own placenta?


So January Jones has gone public about consuming her placenta. The Man Men star revealed she popped some 'placenta pills' following the birth of son Xander, claiming they helped beat the baby blues.

Like many others on hearing this news, I balked. How 'hippy dippy' can you get?, I wondered, picturing accompanying tree hugging and lentil weaving in the Jones household.

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Not to mention the icky issue of ingesting a human organ. Surely tea and toast are the best postnatal pick-me-up, not something more likely to be served with fava beans and a nice chianti?

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Like any good journalist, I put my feelings aside recently when interviewing placenta-consuming mums. But chatting to the women who'd popped the pills and even drunk the smoothies, I surprised myself. I was a placenta convert.

Kerry Jenkinson, 36, opened my eyes to this unorthodox practice. An hour after giving birth to twins at home six months ago, a 'placenta encapsulation' specialist popped over with a blender and some berries, whipping up a placenta smoothie in Kerry's kitchen.

"I was a little apprehensive about tasting it," she explained. "But, actually, it was very fruity, and the most delicious thing I'd ever drank. I'd eaten liver in the past, and surely that's got to be worse than something as natural as what's nourished and helped grow your baby?"

Like January Jones, Kerry also arranged for her placenta to be taken away and 'encapsulated', a process where the organ is steamed, dehydrated, ground up and made into capsules to be swallowed with liquid.

"The effects were incredible," she said. "With my son four years ago I had a lot of trouble with bleeding, but with the twins I hardly had any blood loss at all. Plus, my milk supply and energy levels were great.

"I was sceptical beforehand but now my only regret is that I didn't have both placentas done. I'd definitely do it again."

I had to hand it to Kerry. Listening to her glowing recommendation, I couldn't help but draw a comparison with both of my own difficult and prolonged postnatal recoveries. As I battled anaemia and exhaustion, I'd have given anything for an effective natural remedy - even if that meant a few squeamish moments.

I'd be lying if I said the idea of my placenta on a chopping board wouldn't unnerve me. But as midwife and placenta encapsulation specialist Tara Windmill-Robson assured me, it's worth getting over that initial disgust.

"There are so many benefits," she explained. "The placenta contains stem cells and growth factors which can help prevent the baby blues, increase energy levels and boost milk supply.

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Eating the placenta is a natural and instinctive process for most mammals; it's only humans who have been conditioned not to do it.

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Other benefits listed on the Independent Placenta Encapsulation website include supplying 'rich meaty iron, amino acids and essential fats' which, they believe, are the 'perfect replenishment following the ordeal of birth'.

Fair enough, but how do squeamish mums cope with the gruesome process?

"The woman doesn't have to see the placenta if she doesn't want to, although many do," Tara continued. "I take it away and bring it back to the mother in capsule form. It's just like taking any other kind of vitamin pill."

All I can say is thank goodness for technological advances. After Tara gave birth to her second child 16 years ago there was no such thing as an 'encapsulation service'.

In a bid to avoid postnatal depression she simply closed her eyes, swallowed whole pieces of her chopped placenta, and washed them down with mango juice (apologies to anyone trying to eat).

No amount of persuasion would convince my friend Jenny to consume her placenta, even in tablet form. In fact, she thinks I'm mad for even discussing the idea.

"It's really revolting." she said.

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I can't understand why anyone would want to swallow bits of their own insides, even if it is supposed to be healthy. You've been through so much already when you've just given birth, so why would you torture yourself again?

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Fair enough, placenta eating isn't for everyone. If you'd asked me a few days ago whether I'd entertain it I might have choked on my ham sandwich. But thanks to January Jones, some enthusiastic new mums and a persuasive midwife, I've actually come round to the idea.

Trouble is, after two difficult births and recoveries I'm not planning on ever being in a position to be confronted by my placenta. I'm not sure whether I'm relieved or disappointed by that prospect...


Would you like to try placenta?