Once considered the domain of hippies and ancient civilizations, eating the placenta gained mainstream attention, if not acceptance, when Mad Men star January Jonesrevealed she swallowed pills made from her placenta, the organ that provides oxygen and nutrients to a baby in utero. Jones explained her decision, saying, "Your placenta gets dehydrated and made into vitamins. It’s something I was very hesitant about, but we’re the only mammals who don’t ingest our own placentas. It’s not witch-crafty or anything. I suggest it to all moms.”
Do they work? Some makers of the pills like Fruit of the Womb assert that eating one’s own placenta helps speed recovery from pregnancy, prevents post-partum depression, and restores energy. But according to Mira Calton, a certified nutritionist and co-author of Rich Food Poor Food, there's no research to support these claims. "The placenta is made to prevent potentially dangerous toxins from reaching the baby in utero, not for eating," she says. "Popping placenta pills supplies only minimal iron while delivering these same toxins to the mother again."
Are they safe? "Placenta pills are not FDA-approved and my experience is that post-partum depression can be a severe and dangerous condition for which psychiatric treatment is critical," says Pamela Brar, M.D., an internal medicine physician in La Jolla, Calif. Calton adds that many placental supplements contain fillers or herbs that can cause negative reactions.
Final verdict: Deny it. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should," Dr. Brar says.