The Internet's Leading ObGyn MD
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reported that women who became pregnant with infertility treatment (e.g. ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection) showed an increased risk of maternal morbidity or maternal death (30.8 per 1,000 in infertility treatment women versus 22.2 per 1,000 in women who became pregnant unassisted).
According to this publication:
“Severe maternal morbidity refers to a broad set of conditions that identify women who experience a near-fatal event during, or within 42 days of a pregnancy. The association between assisted reproductive technologies and severe maternal morbidity has been investigated recently in 3 studies in the United States, each reporting an approximate doubling of the risk of severe maternal morbidity among women with pregnancies conceived through assisted reproductive technologies compared to those with pregnancies conceived without.”
Wang ET, Ozimek J, Greene N, et al. Impact of fertility treatment on severe maternal morbidity. Fertil Steril 2016;106:423–6.Google Scholar
Belanoff C, Declercq ER, Diop H, et al. Severe maternal morbidity and the use of assisted reproductive technology in Massachusetts. Obstet Gynecol 2016; 127:527–34.Google Scholar
Vandenbroucke JP, von Elm E, Altman D, et al. Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE): explanation and elaboration. Epidemiology 2007;18:805–35.CrossRefPubMed. Google Scholar
Diet plays a role in fertility, and there are several publications that show just how much a woman’s diet can affect her ability to become pregnant.
Results from the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study suggest that the majority of infertility cases due to ovulation disorders are preventable through modifications of diet and lifestyle. This large study followed 17,544 women without a history of infertility for 8 years while they tried to become or became pregnant. Another study from Australia showed that fast food and less fruit in the diet decreased fertility.
Researchers say that a woman’s diet affects ovulation, and hypothesize that women with healthy insulin levels — the hormone that controls blood sugar — are more likely to ovulate normally. Those who have insulin resistance or diabetes are more prone to irregular ovulation.
In males, research has shown that semen quality in men improves with a “Prudent” diet (high intake of fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) as compared to a “Western” diet (high intake of red and processed meat, refined grains, pizza, snacks, high-energy drinks and sweets).
In addition to diet, research has also shown that less TV swatching and more moderate to vigorous activity were associated with better sperm counts.
The following was found in a review of studies between the relationship of diet and male fertility:
“..healthy diets rich in some nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, some antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C, β-carotene, selenium, zinc, cryptoxanthin and lycopene), other vitamins (vitamin D and folate) and low in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids were inversely associated with low semen quality parameters. Fish, shellfish and seafood, poultry, cereals, vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy and skimmed milk were positively associated with several sperm quality parameters.”
“However, diets rich in processed meat, soy foods, potatoes, full-fat dairy and total dairy products, cheese, coffee, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets have been detrimentally associated with the quality of semen in some studies. As far as fecundability is concerned, a high intake of alcohol, caffeine and red meat and processed meat by males has a negative influence on the chance of pregnancy or fertilization rates in their partners.”
The existing data on postpartum placental consumption is anecdotal and there are no scientific data on this subject. Cats and other animals may eat their placenta but there are no major human cultures who view placental ingestion as an essential part of the postpartum period. Use of the placenta in the postpartum period is re-gaining popularity among some women in the US, Canada and Europe for no good reason.
In one review of placentophagy or placental eating the autors state that “maternal placentophagy may have had deleterious consequences for the overall fitness of mother, offspring, or both, leading to its elimination from our species’ behavioral repertoire.”
The CDC had a case report of a baby that developed late-onset GBS disease attributable to high maternal colonization secondary to consumption of GBS-infected placental tissue after birth. The baby was very sick and had to be admitted with sepsis. Heating for sufficient time at a temperature adequate to decrease GBS bacterial counts might not have been reached. Consumption of contaminated placenta capsules might have elevated maternal GBS intestinal and skin colonization, facilitating transfer to the infant.
In a review of cross-cultural traditions of 179 human societies the authors found a “… conspicuous absence of cultural traditions associated with maternal placentophagy..”. In other words, they found no human culture that includes eating placenta after birth.
The placenta can be consumed in many ways, raw or cooked however placental encapsulation is presently the most popular method.
During placental encapsulation, the placenta is steamed and then dehydrated for 8-10 hours and ground into a powder form at which time it is then filled into vegetable capsules. Other methods of encapsulation use only your placenta and no other ingredients and vary in the processing methods such as not steaming for raw consumption, etc. During this process, heating may not reach adequate levels to destroy all bacteria.
Depending on varying factors, each placenta yields approximately 75-200 capsules and it is recommended that the refrigerated capsules be taken 2-4 times per day during the first 6 weeks of the postpartum period. If you consider placental encapsulation, please follow the exact instructions of the facility who prepared the capsules.
As previously mentioned, there are no scientific data to support eating placenta such as placental encapsulation. Doulas and midwives who try to convince women that eating the placenta is beneficial (and who make money off placenta encapsulation), claim many things such as that it works against insomnia and postpartum depression, and that it can raise your energy and breast milk quantity. Nothing of his is true and there is no evidence whatsoever that these claims can be verified. If there are any benefits of placental encapsulation it is that it makes money for those preparing the capsules, anything else is not scientifically proven.
According to a letter from the FDA Food and Drug Administration, human placenta cannot be considered “food”.
Here are excerpts from that letter:
“Human placenta is not a dietary ingredient under section 201 (fI!)( 1) of the Act.”
“It is not a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or botanical, or an amino acid (section 20l(ff)(l)(A-D) of the Act), nor is it a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient above (section 20 1 (fI)( l)(F) of the Act).”
“It also is not a “dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (section 201 (ff)( l)(E) of the Act), nor is it a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any dietary ingredient. Human placenta also is not a food under section 201(f) of the Act.”
“Given that human tissue is not “food” or a “dietary ingredient,” and that it may transmit human disease, a dietary supplement that contains it is adulterated under the Act (sections 402(a)(l), 402(f)(l)(A), and 402(a)(3) of the Act).”
“The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food that is adulterated is prohibited (section 301(a) of the Act).”
There are no data available on the safety of eating placenta and there is some evidence that it may be harmful to eat the placenta and capsules. In TCM, the capsules are considered “hot” or having “yang” energy and should not be used in the presence of infection or fever. this may exclude most placentas, as placentas are often infected, especially after long labors.
The Independent Placental Encapsulation Network (IPEN) reports side effects in less than 2% of their population and include things such as mild headache, stomach pain/abdominal cramping, other gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, loose stools or constipation, Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (PUPPS) rash, pelvic girdle pain, unexplained lack of milk supply and PMS type emotional symptoms.