In case you were curious about the benefits of eating your placenta, the CDC is now officially advising new mothers not to do so. And the reason why is a scary one: a newborn contracted a group B streptococcus infection—twice—from his mom, who was taking postpartum placenta pills.
While its sources are unknown, Group B strep is a type of bacteria found in people of all ages. But symptoms and complications are particularly severe for newborns, including sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. Newborns who contract Group B strep typically get it from their mothers during delivery. But in the case of the baby currently making headlines, his mom tested negative for the bacteria at her 37-week screening.
This left doctors puzzled. According to a report of the case filed by the CDC last week, the mother’s breast milk—another potential source of Group B strep—also tested negative. But when the infant was admitted to a second hospital for the infection five days after completing antibiotics, physicians learned the mother had asked to be given her placenta after the delivery. And she’d used a company to encapsulate it into pills, taking two capsules three times daily starting three days after birth. Her doctors instructed her to stop taking them while they took a closer look.
Sure enough, the pills came back positive for group B strep. And the strain was almost identical to that in the baby’s blood samples. After a three-week hospital stay and an intensive round of antibiotics, he was discharged. While doctors can’t confirm with 100 percent certainty that the pills were responsible, they strongly believe there is a causal link between the baby’s illness and the placenta pills.
Doctors are also indicating that encapsulated placenta pills are not safe for new moms.
“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” the CDC report reads, explaining eating placenta can also pose a Salmonella risk.
Additionally, the FDA has no regulations for placenta consumption or the encapsulation process. Regardless of how it’s consumed, it needs to be heated at 130°F or 121 minutes to reduce Salmonella bacteria counts. When it comes to encapsulation, the placenta is then typically dehydrated and ground up before being placed into capsules.
Why are women considering eating their placentas in the first place? The trend has risen in popularity since the Kardashians praised the pills, citing benefits like the ability to ward off postpartum depression, easing pain, boosting energy, increasing lacatation, promoting maternal bonding and improving skin elasticity.
Unfortunately, one magic pill can not do all these things. Studies have found no evidence that consuming the placenta—raw, cooked or encapsulated—has any benefits for humans or animals.