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Opinion | Sexuality

Why Women Today Are Eating Their Own Placentas

Scripture and church tradition are silent on the practice. But they aren't silent about our need for community.

January Jones ate hers, so why shouldn't you?

In the crunchy-mama circles I happily move in, for years I've heard of women who eat their own placenta—the blood-rich organ that connects an unborn baby to its mother's blood supply—after giving birth, usually in the form of freeze-dried capsules. Placenta-eating, or "placentophagy," is touted by natural-health advocates for supposedly preventing postpartum depression, replacing nutrients that are lost during childbirth, and ensuring a good supply of breastmilk. The practice hit the headlines when Mad Men star Jones admitted to People magazine that she had eaten hers after the birth of her son, Xander.

Critics of placentophagy—including Nancy Redd, who wrote about it for the New York Times's Motherlode blog—say that stories of successful placentophagy are "as anecdotal, and in my case as absurdly off beam, as alien sightings." In her post "I Regret Eating My Placenta," Redd said that after she ingested her dried, encapsulated placenta, she felt "jittery and weird," then entered "tabloid-worthy meltdown mode, a frightening phase filled with tears and rage."

Not to mention that most people think it's just gross.

Jones defended the practice to The Telegraph, noting that "we're the only mammals who don't ingest our own placentas." Her statement isn't quite accurate. Pharmaceutical uses of placentas go back at least to Hippocrates, and appear in traditional Chinese medicines and European folk remedies. Indigenous people ...

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