Danger in eating placenta

Photo above: Two kinds of placenta: The yellow one is sold in a medical hall and imported from China. The other is a placenta kept in a freezer for 10 years.

KUALA LUMPUR - Eating placenta post-birth is a fad that has no scientific study to confirm or deny its benefits.

A confession by Hollywood actress January Jones last week that she pops a placenta capsule when she's feeling tired or blue has raised questions on the uses of ingesting placenta.

Consultant neonatologist Prof Dr Cheah Fook Choe said advocates of eating placenta after giving birth would have based their support solely on anecdotal evidence.

"The real benefits of ingesting placenta has not been investigated enough."

Dr Cheah, who works in the paedetriatics department in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said there were implications to consider when eating placenta.

This, he said, included possible infections from organisms present in the placenta.

Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia president Dr Krishna Kumar echoed Dr Cheah's sentiments, saying there was no clinical evidence to support the practice of eating placental tissue.

Dr Krishna said eating uncooked organic tissue could lead to complications.

"The idea of cannibalism also comes into question," he said, adding that there were a lot of abnormal and funny trends worldwide.

Dr Krishna said the use of placental tissue, including animal placenta, has been incorporated into non-Western medicine and was popular among Eastern European countries.

Some of the methods of consuming placenta are via oral tablets, drinks, eating the whole placental tissue, injections and creams.

Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Choong Kuo Hsiang said consuming placenta was the same as eating any other source of protein. "There are no special ingredients, but many cultures in the past have digested it for health or beauty reasons."

Dr Choong said there was a belief that ingesting placenta brought youthful vitality to the consumer.

"I have often joked with patients about boiling their placenta in soups."

He said in the 40 years he has been in the profession, none of his patients had requested to keep the placenta for eating purposes.

However, he added that some have taken home the placental tissue due to religious reasons.

"Some patients keep the placenta frozen. They believe it protects the baby against ill-health."