New Moms Turn to Placenta Pills for Post-Baby Recovery

By Matthew Glasser and Bruce Hensel
|  Wednesday, Nov 13, 2013  |  Updated 11:00 PM PDT
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More new parents are opting for a placenta pill, a vitamin made from afterbirth. Questions on the pills effectiveness and safety are answered. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

Dr. Bruce Hensel

More new parents are opting for a placenta pill, a vitamin made from afterbirth. Questions on the pills effectiveness and safety are answered. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

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A growing number of alternative-health professionals are creating a new kind of post-natal vitamin using new mothers’ afterbirth, or placenta.

Consuming pills made from placenta began as an ancient Chinese medicine, and some moms, including those in LA, say it’s making a noticeable difference in the 21st century.

A mother of three, Cynthia Cecil makes the pills at her Washington state home. She said the first placenta she ever processed was her own.

"It doesn't look any different or taste any different than a pre-natal vitamin," said Cecil, who now helps other new moms process their placenta.

First, the placenta is dehydrated in a machine for 16 hours. Then it’s blended into a powder and poured into capsules.

The placenta forms in the womb of a pregnant woman. It’s the environment and pathway for the developing fetus to get blood and nutrition from the mother.

Advocates for the pills contend that retrieving those nutrients and hormones speeds up recovery time, helps with iron levels and milk supply, and can fight against postpartum depression.

But critics, including an OB/GYN in Los Angeles, are concerned that unwanted bacteria could accompany those nutrients when women consume the non-regulated supplements.

Burbank-based Dr. Steven Rabin points out that while the placenta is high in nutrients, it also removes waste products from the baby. Rabin said there may be a chance that fecal matter or E. Coli could contaminate the pills.

Depending on its size, a woman’s placenta could yield hundreds of pills, taken just as daily supplements are consumed.

Ingesting placenta may replenish new moms with iron and other nutrients lost when they gave birth. The placenta also contains hormones that disappear if the placenta is discarded after birth.

"So when that's suddenly gone, you basically have the hormonal rug pulled out from under you, so you crash really hard for that, so there's big ups and down, you cry over spilt milk kind of literally," Cecil said.

Cecil said she could tell the difference between her recovery from her first pregnancy (without using placenta pills) and how she recovered after her second pregnancy (with placenta pills).

"I've been so impressed at what I’ve seen and how beneficial it can be, that all those nay-sayers, I don't even pay attention," she said.

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