COLUMBIA (AP) - Some new Missouri moms are reverting to the traditional birthing practice of saving their placenta in hopes of warding off postpartum illness.
The Columbia Missourian reports that the practice is growing in popularity among local mothers. Placenta is formed in a mother's uterus lining during pregnancy and helps nourish the fetus. It's expelled once a child is born and also is referred to as afterbirth.
The placenta contains hormones and nutrients that proponents believe can help new mothers recover more quickly and avoid postpartum depression. It's put into capsules, ointment and tinctures or even added to food after being steamed, dehydrated and ground into a powder.
Melanie Morgret, who gave birth at home to her third child on Feb. 29, said she recovered more quickly after consuming placenta products provided to her by Jennifer Graham-Henderson, a Columbia "placenta remedy" consultant.
"I just had more energy right after, and I don't know if that's just because I stayed home," she said. "Plus with taking the placenta capsules, I feel like it was a combination of both."
Graham-Henderson, a former special education teacher in Columbia, had postpartum depression after giving birth to her first daughter. She learned about placenta remedies while she was pregnant with her second daughter and now operates Baby Home Brewed, a Web-based business.
"The placenta, when it's gone, you're left without hormone
production or regulation for a couple days up to a couple weeks," Graham-Henderson said.
In humans, the hypothalamus in the brain controls hormonal production. But after about the 12th week of pregnancy, a woman's placenta regulates her hormones. After giving birth it can take more than two weeks before a new mother's hypothalamus resumes those duties, Graham-Henderson said.
Nutrients such as vitamin B, protein and iron are absorbed into the body faster and easier from placenta remedies than vitamin supplements, the consultant said.
But Mark Kristal, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University at Buffalo who's studied the postpartum consumption of placenta for 40 years, said definitive scientific proof of its benefits is elusive.
"It's a difficult topic to study in humans in a scientific fashion," said Kristal, who teaches in the school's psychology department.
Kristal suggested that new mothers consuming encapsulated placenta might be experiencing a placebo effect; they think it will help, so it does.