Placenta Information & Research

Placenta In Culture & Tradition

“The placenta often plays an important role in various cultures, with many societies conducting rituals regarding its disposal. In the Western world, the placenta is most often incinerated.

Some cultures bury the placenta for various reasons. The Māori of New Zealand traditionally bury the placenta from a newborn child to emphasize the relationship between humans and the earth. Likewise, the Navajo bury the placenta and umbilical cord at a specially chosen site, particularly if the baby dies during birth. In Cambodia and Costa Rica, burial of the placenta is believed to protect and ensure the health of the baby and the mother.If a mother dies in childbirth, the Aymara of Bolivia bury the placenta in a secret place so that the mother’s spirit will not return to claim her baby’s life.

The placenta is believed by some communities to have power over the lives of the baby or its parents. The Kwakiutl of British Columbia bury girls’ placentas to give the girl skill in digging clams, and expose boys’ placentas to ravens to encourage future prophetic visions. In Turkey, the proper disposal of the placenta and umbilical cord is believed to promote devoutness in the child later in life. In Ukraine, Transylvania, and Japan, interaction with a disposed placenta is thought to influence the parents’ future fertility.

Several cultures believe the placenta to be or have been alive, often a relative of the baby. Nepalese think of the placenta as a friend of the baby; Malaysian Orang Asli regard it as the baby’s older sibling. The Ibo of Nigeria consider the placenta the deceased twin of the baby, and conduct full funeral rites for it. Native Hawaiians believe that the placenta is a part of the baby, and traditionally plant it with a tree that can then grow alongside the child. Various cultures in Indonesia, such as Javanese, believe that the placenta has a spirit and needs to be buried outside the family house.

In some cultures, the placenta is eaten, a practice known as placentophagy. In some eastern cultures, such as China and Hong Kong, the dried placenta (紫河車) is thought to be a healthful restorative and is sometimes used in preparations of traditional Chinese medicine and various health products”. -wiki


Placenta & Postpartum Depression

Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition
John L. Beard, et. al.; J. Nutr. 135: 267–272, 2005.

ABSTRACT The aim of this study was to determine whether iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in mothers alters their maternal cognitive and behavioral performance, the mother-infant interaction, and the infant’s development. This article focuses on the relation between IDA and cognition as well as behavioral affect in the young mothers. This prospective, randomized, controlled, intervention trial was conducted in South Africa among 3 groups of mothers: nonanemic controls and anemic mothers receiving either placebo (10 g folate and 25 mg vitamin C) or daily iron (125 mg FeS04, 10 g folate, 25 mg vitamin C). Mothers of full-term normal birth weight babies were followed from 10 wk to 9 mo postpartum (n 81). Maternal hematologic and iron status, socioeconomic, cognitive, and emotional status, motherinfant interaction, and the development of the infants were assessed at 10 wk and 9 mo postpartum. Behavioral and cognitive variables at baseline did not differ between iron-deficient anemic mothers and nonanemic mothers. However, iron treatment resulted in a 25% improvement (P 0.05) in previously iron-deficient mothers’ depression and stress scales as well as in the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test. Anemic mothers administered placebo did not improve in behavioral measures. Multivariate analysis showed a strong association between iron status variables (hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and transferrin saturation) and cognitive variables (Digit Symbol) as well as behavioral variables (anxiety, stress, depression). This study demonstrates that there is a strong relation between iron status and depression, stress, and cognitive functioning in poor African mothers during the postpartum period. There are likely ramifications of this poorer “functioning” on mother-child interactions and infant development, but the constraints around this relation will have to be defined in larger studies.

Placenta & Breast Milk Production

“Powdered Placenta Hominis was used for 57 cases of insufficient lactation. Within 4 days, 48 women had markedly increased milk production, with the remainder following suit over the next three days.” Bensky/Gamble. 1997. Materia Medica, Eastland Press, 549.
“It has been shown that the feeding of desiccated placenta to women during the first eleven days after parturition causes an increase in the protein and lactose percent of the milk… All the mothers were receiving the same diet, and to the second set 0.6mg of desiccated placenta was fed three times a day throughout the period. Certain definite differences in the progress of growth of the two sets of infants are to be observed. It is evident that the recovery from the postnatal decline in weight is hastened by the consumption of milk produced under the influence of maternally ingested placenta.” McNeile, Lyle G. 1918. The American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children, 77. W.A. Townsend & Adams, original press: University of Michigan.
Placenta as Lactagagon
Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.
An attempt was made to increase milk secretion in mothers by administration of dried placenta per os. Of 210 controlled cases only 29 (13.8%) gave negative results; 181 women (86.2%) reacted positively to the treatment, 117 (55.7%) with good and 64 (30.5%) with very good results. It could be shown by similar experiments with a beef preparation that the effective substance in placenta is not protein. Nor does the lyofilised placenta act as a biogenic stimulator so that the good results of placenta administration cannot be explained as a form of tissue therapy per os. The question of a hormonal influence remains open. So far it could be shown that progesterone is probably not active in increasing lactation after administration of dried placenta.
This method of treating hypogalactia seems worth noting since the placenta preparation is easily obtained, has not so far been utilized and in our experience is successful in the majority of women.
Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation.
Blank MS, Friesen HG.: J Reprod Fertil. 1980 Nov;60(2):273-8.
In rats that were allowed to eat the placentae after parturition concentrations of serum prolactin were elevated on Day 1 but concentrations of serum progesterone were depressed on Days 6 and 8 post partum when compared to those of rats prevented from eating the placentae. In rats treated with PMSG to induce superovulation serum prolactin and progesterone values were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated on Days 3 and 5 respectively, after being fed 2 g rat placenta/day for 2 days. However, feeding each rat 4 g placenta/day

significantly (P < 0.02) lowered serum progesterone on Day 5. Oestrogen injections or bovine or human placenta in the diet had no effect. The organic phase of a petroleum ether extract of rat placenta (2 g-equivalents/day) lowered peripheral concentrations of progesterone on Day 5, but other extracts were ineffective. We conclude that the rat placenta contains orally-active substance(s) which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones.

Placenta & Pain Relief

Placenta for Pain Relief:
Placenta ingestion by rats enhances y- and n-opioid antinociception, but suppresses A-opioid antinociception
Jean M. DiPirro*, Mark B. Kristal
Ingestion of placenta or amniotic fluid produces a dramatic enhancement of centrally mediated opioid antinociception in the rat. The present experiments investigated the role of each opioid receptor type (A, y, n) in the antinociception-modulating effects of Placental Opioid-Enhancing Factor (POEF—presumably the active substance). Antinociception was measured on a 52 jC hotplate in adult, female rats after they ingested placenta or control substance (1.0 g) and after they received an intracerebroventricular injection of a y-specific ([D-Pen2,D-Pen5]enkephalin (DPDPE); 0, 30, 50, 62, or 70 nmol), A-specific ([D-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly5-ol]enkephalin (DAMGO); 0, 0.21, 0.29, or 0.39 nmol), or n-specific (U-62066; spiradoline; 0, 100, 150, or 200 nmol) opioid receptor agonist. The results showed that ingestion of placenta potentiated y- and n-opioid antinociception, but attenuated A-opioid antinociception. This finding of POEF action as both opioid receptor-specific and complex provides an important basis for understanding the intrinsic pain-suppression mechanisms that are activated during parturition and modified by placentophagia, and important information for the possible use of POEF as an adjunct to opioids in pain management.

D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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