To eat or not to eat? Examining nutrition in the human placenta

By WEEK Producer

March 4, 2014 Updated Mar 4, 2014 at 11:31 PM CDT

It sounds awful, but it's something that just about all mammals do: ingest their placenta after birth. But it's not something we're accustomed to hearing humans do.

In the state of Maryland, the birthing facility by law must allow the family to take the placenta home. It goes into a cooler until a certified placenta encapsulation specialist can get to the family's home--about two days after birth.

The company -- placenta benefits-- says taking the capsules helps to replenish iron, shrink the uterus and lesson the bleeding after childbirth.

"It's also going to help them with their energy, increase their mood and balance their hormones after the childbirth," said Lauren Agro, placenta encapsulation specialist. "It's going to help their milk production."

Some doctors say it appears to be a placebo effect in that the process is empowering for the woman. The US food and drug administration recommends consumers avoid dietary supplements and other food products containing human placenta, saying the risk of bacterial infection is significant.

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