Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen is much-loved for her openness, and her willingness to candidly post on social media about everything from stretch marks to fertility issues.
In an interview on CBS, the mum of two revealed that she ate her placenta after the birth of her second child, Miles, to avoid postpartum depression (PPD).
"I don't think I can have you eating your placenta on primetime," CBS correspondent Rita Braver tells Teigen in the show.
Why do people eat placenta?
Thanks in part to celebrities who’ve touted its supposed benefits, some pregnant women arrange for the hospital to release their placenta (the organ that supplies nutrients to the baby while in utero) after delivery where it can be dried, ground, and encapsulated by a company. Some women may also cook the organ at home to eat it. Why? It reportedly may lower stress and even out mood, decrease PPD, replenish iron stores, and aid in milk production, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Are there really benefits of eating placenta, though?
It would be one thing if eating your placenta really did deliver on its promises. Thing is, scientific evidence that placenta encapsulation does any of those things doesn’t exist, per research in 2018 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. “…No placental nutrients and hormones are retained in sufficient amounts after placenta encapsulation to be potentially helpful to the mother postpartum,” the authors write.
Are placenta pills even safe?
When pregnant women come asking about eating their placenta, Christine C. Greves, MD, board certified ob-gyn at Winne Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, explains that there are no known benefits and outlines the possible harms. “The procedure to encapsulate is not FDA-regulated, so there’s the risk of contamination. We don’t know if it’s safe to take,” she says.
Plus, there are possible risks to the baby, too. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a case report of an infant who became ill with group B Strep. Doctors had trouble identifying the reason for the illness until it was revealed that the mum had her placenta encapsulated. Contaminated capsules could have caused levels of the bacteria to proliferate inside the mom’s GI tract and skin, which may then have been transferred to the baby, the report explains.
Placenta-eating aside, here's why Chrissy Teigen is a role model for women with postpartum depression
This is not the first time Teigen’s talked about her experiences with PPD. Last year, she opened up in an essay for Glamour about how she had PPD after having her daughter Luna in 2016.
By talking about these issues and showing other women they’re not alone, “Teigen is truly doing something heroic. I completely understand if someone has had PPD that they may want to consume their placenta. PPD is awful and you want to do what you can to prevent it again,” says Dr. Greves. However, since there’s no good data and the CDC recommends against it, she’ll instead suggest evidence-based treatments for PPD. That may include connecting with a therapist before delivery to set up a treatment plan and arranging for a strong support system of friends and family. If that’s not enough, the SSRI antidepressant medication sertraline can be taken without compromising breastfeeding.
As many as 1 in 7 mums develop PPD, a condition that goes beyond standard “baby blues.” Some symptoms include anxiety, feeling guilty or worthless, uncontrollable crying, disinterest in the baby, and fear of being left alone with the baby, per the American Psychological Association. If you notice these feelings, talk to your ob-gyn right away. If medication is needed, it can take a couple weeks to work, says Dr. Greves.
Bottom line: PPD is awful and can be hard to treat, but there are safer options than placenta pills
And if you still want to pop placenta pills? “I tell my patients that it’s their body and choice, and I’ll love them just the same. But given the CDC’s warnings, I just can’t recommend it,” says Dr. Greves.
This article originally appeared on Prevention US.