Warning issued over use of placenta pills after baby contracts serious illness

A new health report issued in the US has issued a warning to new mothers about the dangers of pills made from their placenta after a young baby contracted the dangerous infection, Group B Streptococcus (GBS), from the capsules its mother was taking.

A life-threatening situation

A US baby born in Oregon last year was found to have late-onset Group B Streptococcus (GBS), a life-threatening blood infection, when its health began declining shortly after birth. Following a course of antibiotics in hospital, the baby was released home in good health only to contract the infection again, prompting another worrying rush to hospital.

It was only then that doctors discovered the mother had been ingesting pills made from her dehydrated placenta (the organ connecting the baby to the uterus which is delivered post-birth). The capsules tested positive for the GBS infection which they believe was being passed on to the baby through breastfeeding. Immediately advising the mother to stop taking the pills, doctors issued more antibiotics to the baby who thankfully was then able to make a complete recovery.

A warning issued to mums

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (the US health protection agency also known as the CDS), issued a report on Thursday, warning all new mothers about the dangers of turning their placenta into pills for consumption. Despite it being the first case detailing the potential risks involved, the authors are advising women to avoid the practice altogether due to the lack of health and safety regulations in place for producing the capsules. The report suggests that it’s possible the company the new mum sent her placenta to (who cleaned, sliced, dehydrated, ground it and placed into gelatin capsules for her), did not heat the placenta enough in order to kill any harmful bacteria.

What the placenta looks like directly after childbirth

The popular practice

While most female mammals eat their placenta after birth (placentophagy), it only became a popular practice among human mums in the late 60s and 70s during the natural birth movement. Believed to help new mothers recover from birth faster, boost milk supply, increase energy levels, and reduce the chances of postnatal depression; it has once again become a popular trend thanks to celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and January Jones who have both ingested their placenta after giving birth.

Some mothers also choose to eat their placenta raw, blended into smoothies, in strips or from the freezer, but eating it cooked in meals or taking it in capsule form are the most common methods. Despite numerous women swearing by the practice, there are actually no concrete studies to prove the benefits of placenta consumption. Only one study has produced any compelling evidence of the sort – but this was only when the placenta was eaten raw and whole, immediately after birth (the benefit being the potential to relieve pain for the mother post labour).

What is GBS?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is regularly found in and on adult bodies and causes little to no issues, however for a foetus or newborn it can be a deadly condition. In babies who have undeveloped immune systems GBS can cause sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis – among other serious infections and illnesses which at worst can result in death. In the instance of this Oregon baby, the strain of GBS found was particularly bad with the potential to enter the brain via the bloodstream. Thankfully this baby did make a full recovery but the alarming incident has highlighted the need for more in-depth studies and health and safety regulations around the practice.

Did you or are you thinking about consuming your placenta after birth?

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