Placentagate: Nikki Reed shares photo of her placenta pills and debate erupts

Nikki Reed

Actors Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder have been boldly navigating pregnancy and parenthood over the last 12 months, and are merrily taking fans along for the ride, sharing frequent updates on their views on all things mum and dad.

Mum and Pop life

There was the time Ian posted a tribute to Nikki’s strength and her hot preggo bod. The time they “joked” about throwing away birth control – (and then apologised for doing that.) And the time they promised to stay off social media for one whole month.

We’re dubbing the latest update from camp Somerhalder-Reed Placentagate, because it involves Nikki revealing she’s been gobbling down encapsulated placenta pills. The gate part of the equation denotes followers worrying that this is not a safe practice at all – and questioning the wisdom of promoting the practice to a wider audience.

“Last day of placenta pills. Not ready to say goodbye!!!!! Ps sending love to all you mamas out there doing whatever feels right for you! This was recommended to me by my doula but that does not mean it’s for everyone :). Just do you,” Nikki wrote, perhaps foreshadowing the criticism that would follow her pic.

“Edible” placenta pills contain the processed placenta of a new mother in an easy-to-swallow capsule – and creating them is a growing and unregulated micro-industry. 

Computer says no

Commenters were quick to swoop in with questions and a LOT of criticism. Many critics of the practice highlighted a US case where an Oregon newborn was infected with a life-threatening bacteria, doctors think via poorly prepared placenta pills.

“Please read latest from the CDC [The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention]!! They are totally against this. It can cause bacteria, infections and viruses. Look it up through CDC,” one follower wrote.

“Just because a certain behaviour is embraced by many people and for a long time,that doesn’t mean it’s a positive thing. There is no scientific evidence that eating your own placenta is good for your health,” another said. There were many more comments in this vein.

It’s important to point out that there is no concrete evidence to back up the assertion that “placenta pills” have any health benefits at all.

“Just do you”?

Nikki quite cavalierly advises an “each to their own”, “just do you” approach to taking these pills, but it’s really worth noting the CDC’s report.  

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” the report advises.

It also suggests the encapsulation company the Oregon mum sent her placenta to (which cleaned, sliced, dehydrated, ground it and placed it into gelatin capsules), may not have heated the placenta enough to kill harmful bacteria, resulting in a baby repeatedly getting very sick.

While this practice may be very widespread, it’s really important to be mindful of the health risks associated with ingesting placenta capsules. Not just for mothers, but for vulnerable babies too.

The good with the bad?

Crystal Tennille Clark, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University, has studied the data on the effects of eating encapsulated placenta. She says we need to take the blinkers off and note that a placenta contains a variety of elements – not just nourishing and beneficial ones.

“Bacteria and elements such as mercury and lead have been identified in the post-term placenta,” Clark told CBS News. “So if the theory is that we retain nutrients and hormones such as estrogen and iron that could be beneficial, then the question becomes what harmful substances can also be retained that could harm the mother or the baby if she is breastfeeding.”

We suggest some serious investigation and science-led, evidence-based education is in order, if you’re considering doing this.

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For all the women who run with the wolves…

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