Sunday 22 October 2017

Dear Dr Nina: 'I’m considering getting placenta pills made after the birth - are they safe?'

Placental pills have increased in popularity in recent years
Placental pills have increased in popularity in recent years

Nina Byrnes

Ask the GP with Dr Nina Byrnes

Dear Dr Nina: My baby is due in three months time and I’m considering getting placenta pills made after the birth. Do doctors recommend these? Are they safe and do they have any recognised medical benefit?

Nina answers: Placental pills have increased in popularity in recent years, most notably since Kim Kardashian announced she would be taking them. Those who advocate them claim there are health benefits as the placenta is rich in iron and vitamins. Benefits, such as improved energy, better hair and nails, improved mood and quicker recovery from pregnancy, have been cited. Consuming the placenta is not unusual in many mammal species.

The truth is, there is absolutely no medical evidence to support any of these claims. There have been no proper clinical studies done on placental pills. More recently, the safety of these pills has been called into question. In recent weeks, a baby suffered a potentially fatal bacterial infection that was felt to be due to the mothers intake of placental pills.

The baby had Group B Streptococcal septicaemia. The mother was tested and was clear, but when her placental pills were checked, they were all found to be positive for Strep B.

Thankfully, the baby was diagnosed and treated by neonatologists, but it is a chilling reminder of how important the regulation of medicinal products is.

The production of placental pills is not regulated or standardised, therefore, the checks and balances that apply in the pharmaceutical industry do not apply. It appears, on reviewing sites that produce these pills, that they follow “food hygiene” regulations. Production seems to occur in facilities that would not pass most lab health-and-safety checks.

The weeks after childbirth can be stressful. Your body is recovering from an arduous physical trauma, you are sleep deprived and physically and mentally exhausted. This is not abnormal and nearly every new mother feels this way. It is absolutely of benefit to ensure you are eating well, drink plenty fluids (up to three litres daily, if breastfeeding), and get as much rest as you can. Lean on anyone around you who can help out and don’t worry too much about the housework.

Remember, most of the celebrities who “bounce back” after having a baby have done that with far more help than just a few placental pills.

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