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Health & Wellness

Sick baby prompts CDC to warn against taking placenta pills

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a message for new moms who swear that eating their placenta after childbirth provides a slew of health benefits: Not so fast.

The nation’s health protection agency released a new report warning that there are no standards for processing the organ for consumption and cited a case study of an Oregon woman who seemed to have passed a dangerous infection to her newborn baby after taking contaminated pills containing her dehydrated placenta.

The baby developed group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS), an infection that can cause deadly respiratory problems in newborns. That newborn was treated for the infection and recovered, but was admitted to another hospital just five days later, testing positive again for GBS. The infant was again treated and eventually discharged.

The mother confirmed that she registered with a company to pick up and encapsulate her placenta after the birth of her child. The mother and the company were not named in the CDC report, which was released on June 30.

The CDC noted that it was possible that other family members could have passed along GBS to the baby, but testing showed GBS in the placenta samples the mother provided. The report also said that the placenta may not have been heated long enough to kill off any dangerous bacteria before it was encapsulated.

Still, ingesting placenta after birth — either in pill form, raw, or cooked — has become popular in recent years with proponents swearing it helps to increase energy, milk production and staves of postpartum depression. Several celebrities, including actresses Gaby Hoffmann, January Jones and Alicia Silverstone have extolled the practice’s benefits.

But doctors have warned there’s no proof that eating placenta is advantageous.

“The placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided,” the CDC report concluded.

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