SINGAPORE - Business manager Nathalie Chow believes she flouted traditional confinement practices for new mothers and got away with it without falling ill because she ate her own placenta, which was made into pills.
The 29-year-old says: "Old folks say the goodness of your body should be kept within the body. After birth, you lose the 'qi' or energy. Taking your own placenta restores it."
Private tutor Vanessa Teo, 36, says the difference between taking and not taking the pills was stark for her.
Nine years ago, after giving birth to her first child Gabriel, she was "exhausted" for two months, had body aches and felt dizzy.
It was different after the birth of her second child Naomi, now five. She got her confinement nanny to clean, steam and dry the placenta before asking Eu Yan Sang to process it into pills.
"I was back to my normal self within a week and was not breathless and didn't feel so dizzy."
The placenta is the organ through which oxygen and nutrients are transferred from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy. It is rich in iron and proteins.
The women SundayLife! spoke to say they did not eat their placenta in its raw form, opting to let traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shops turn it into pills.
Three TCM practitioners say they charge around $300 to process the placenta, including the collection of the organ at the hospital and delivering the pills. Each placenta yields 150 to 300 pills, depending on the size.
Eu Yan Sang says it has since stopped the service for "hygiene" reasons.
Mr Yeo Chuan Hong, 40, managing director of Heavenly Health, says he has about 20 clients a month for the service. "We keep the service through word of mouth rather than advertise it because some people may find eating one's own placenta gross."
Mr Chang Wee Lee, head of education at the Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, says the practice of eating one's own placenta dates back 2,500 years.
"Then, placentas of healthy women were made into medicine to boost milk supply and help reduce infertility or impotence," says Mr Chang, 53.
Dr Denas Chandra, 53, of The Women's Specialist, acknowledges that the placenta contains nutrients.
But he says: "There's nothing in the mainstream obstetrics and gynaecology literature that mentions the benefits of consuming placenta. It's certainly not addressed at the scientific level."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.