Fans of Chrissy Teigen knows she likes to keep it real. True to form, the cookbook author, television personality, and model opened up about her unique way of dealing with postpartum depression after giving birth to her second child, son Miles.
“It sounds ridiculous, but people have this belief that if you eat your placenta, it gets all those nutrients that you lost when you were pregnant, rather than just losing them immediately and losing that rush of endorphins,” she told Rita Braver for CBS Sunday Morning’s 40th anniversary primetime special.
Teigen had previously experienced postpartum after giving birth to her first child, daughter Luna, which she described as a “dark and crazy” period of her life.
However, as she explained to Braver, taking dry placenta pills helped her avoid it this time around. “[They] kind of keep this energy up and be weaned off that feeling more. And I didn’t do that with Luna so…I remember looking back and being like, ‘I shoulda ate my placenta!'”
So is Teigen onto something? Maybe. Depending on whose side you resonate more with: tradition or science.
Throughout history the placenta has been regarded with fascination and revered for its life and spirit by different cultures. Both the Navajo Indians of the Southwest and New Zealand’s Maoris bury the placenta after childbirth, while tribes in Bolivia and Ghana believe it holds its own spirit.
But if you think today’s placentophagy has deep roots, think again. Research has discovered that most modern placentophagy is practiced by women in industrialized countries, particularly the US, Australia, and in the EU, with the majority of the women being white, married, and educated.
Placenta encapsulation practitioners, like those administered to Teigen, are worldwide. In a July 2017 article, QZ.com reported there are nearly 900 practitioners in countries including the U.S., Hong Kong, South Korea, and Australia.
Despite those numbers, science still isn’t on board with the practice. A 2017 study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found no significant differences in maternal bonding or mood between the 12 women who took placenta pills and the 15 who took placebo pills in the weeks after giving birth.
While researchers did find “detectable changes” in hormone levels, Daniel Benyshek, senior author of the study, said in a news release, “We did not find the type of clear, robust differences in maternal hormone levels or postpartum mood between the placenta group and placebo group.”
However, the study’s authors did say further research was needed to explore those results more definitively.
“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,” said Dr. Sharon Young, lead author of the study and program manager for UNLV’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “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.”
While placentophagy isn’t exactly mainstream (yet), don’t be surprised if Teigen ends up putting placenta on the menu in a new cookbook. When Braver expressed criticism over the practice, Teigen joked, “Really?! That’s not a normal thing? I’m in L.A., it’s very normal — they grill it here.”
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