LAS VEGAS — Placenta pills may be all the rage for new mothers in recent years, but their benefits may be more limited than many believe. A new study finds that women who practiced maternal placentophagy didn’t see any notable improvements when it came to their mood, ability to bond with their baby, or fatigue level.
Researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) recruited 27 moms who had recently given birth for a study on whether consumption of placenta capsules could be a useful treatment for women who suffer from postpartum depression, or the onset of the more common and less serious “baby blues.”
In the weeks immediately following childbirth, 12 of the participants regularly took placenta capsules, while the remaining mothers were given placebo pills.
While the researchers found that taking the placenta supplements did little to improve mental health outcomes, such as warding off the baby blues, they did play a role in regulating a mother’s circulating hormone levels.
Prior research released by the same team last year had found that encapsulated placentas were not as great of a source of iron as previously suggested.
As for these latest findings, both advocates and detractors of the purported benefits of placenta consumption may have a reason to cheer.
“Placentophagy supporters may point to the fact that we did see evidence that many of the hormones detected in the placenta capsules were modestly elevated in the placenta group moms,” says Daniel Benyshek, the study’s senior author, in a university release.
“Similarly for skeptics, our results might be seen as proof that placentophagy doesn’t ‘really work’ because we did not find the type of clear, robust differences in maternal hormone levels of postpartum mood between the placenta group and the placebo group that these types of studies are designed to detect,” he adds.
All in all, the jury may still be out on the array of potential health advantages that placenta pills can provide.
“While the study doesn’t provide firm support for or against the claims about the benefits of placentophagy, it does shed light on this much debated topic by providing the first results from a clinical trial specifically testing the impact of placenta supplements on postpartum hormones, mood, and energy,” explains Dr. Sharon Young, the study’s lead author. “What we have uncovered are interesting areas for future exploration, such as small impacts on hormone levels for women taking placenta capsules, and small improvements in mood and fatigue in the placenta group.”
The research team’s findings were published last month in the journal Women and Birth.