The trend of eating placenta after childbirth "borders on cannibalism" and is only lining providers' pockets, rather than offering any benefit to women or their newborns. That's according to researchers of a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, which finds "no known scientifically proven benefits" to placentophagy, per the Independent. There are, however, several risks, including of viral and bacterial infections in mothers and their babies. The risk of infection may remain even when placenta is heated, freeze-dried, or turned into pill form, as there are no regulations on placenta preparation, and certain viruses, like HIV and hepatitis, are only killed when heated at high temperatures for hours, reports Live Science.
Even placenta free of viruses may contain heavy metals, immune to heat, that could do damage, according to the study, which notes headaches reported by some mothers may be caused by cadmium in placenta. While headaches may be a small price to pay for a boost in mood or milk production claimed by some, "we found that there is no scientific evidence of any clinical benefit of placentophagy among humans, and no placental nutrients and hormones are retained in sufficient amounts after placenta encapsulation to be potentially helpful to the mother postpartum," researchers say. And yet, "the people who tell women they should eat placentas make good money from it," notes one of the study's co-authors. "It's the same idea as people selling snake oil." (The CDC is also cautious.)