Nikki Reed welcomed her daughter Bodhi in late July and the actress has been sporadically posting on Instagram about life as a new mom. But her latest photo has raised some eyebrows: Nikki revealed that she’s been taking placenta pills.
“Last day of placenta pills. Not ready to say goodbye!!!!!” she captioned an Instagram pic of herself jokingly looking upset while holding up a pill bottle. Fans jumped all over it, with some thanking Nikki for sharing her postpartum supplement regimen, and others pointing out that there’s no science to support it.
The practice is known as placentophagy, and it involves a woman basically eating her placenta, the organ that helps give nutrients and oxygen to the developing baby during pregnancy. Fans of the practice point out that other mammals eat the placenta and swear that placentophagy lowers the risk of postpartum depression and helps keep a woman’s energy levels up.
That said, these "benefits" are all anecdotal. “There are no scientific benefits of the placental pills,” says Dr Yvonne Bohn, an ob-gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. What science does say, however, is that it’s risky to do this.
This summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in on the practice, discouraging new mothers from taking placenta pills and pointing to a scary story of a mum in Oregon whose baby developed a deadly bacterial infection known as Group B Streptococcus thanks to her mom’s placenta pills. The CDC noted that there are no standards for processing placenta and, if a company doesn’t heat the placenta to the right temperature, the pills can contain harmful bacteria that can make the mum and/or baby sick.
“Looking at the research or lack thereof, I don't think it's a good idea,” says women’s health expert Dr Jennifer Wider. Instead, she recommends that women stick with what has been proven to be effective for postpartum health, like eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, asking for help when they need it, and consulting a medical health professional if they start to develop symptoms of postpartum depression.
It’s possible that some women might experience a placebo effect from placenta pills, which make them feel more energetic and happy, says. But, she adds, “personally, I don’t recommend it.”
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.