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    Should I Eat My Placenta?

    Your placenta: You could dry it and put it in pills. You could stir-fry it with onions. You could even eat it raw in the delivery room.

    Don't faint! The act of eating the placenta after you give birth, called placentophagy, isn't just something animals do. Human moms do it, too, including tribal women and glamorous celebrities. You may be wondering whether you should as well.

    What Does the Placenta Do?

    The placenta, or afterbirth, is the first organ that forms -- even before any of your baby's organs -- after you conceive. It plays an important role in your pregnancy: It connects you and your baby in the uterus and delivers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to her. It also takes away the waste that she makes.

    The placenta grows throughout your pregnancy. It is also the only organ your body makes and then gets rid of. After you give birth, you don't need it anymore. If your baby arrived through vaginal delivery, you'll push it out vaginally. If you have a C-section, the doctor will remove the placenta from your uterus. At delivery time, it weighs about 1 pound. It looks round and flat.

    People who support eating the placenta say that it can raise your energy and breast milk quantity. They also say it can level off your hormones, lowering your chances of postpartum depression and insomnia.

    Those claims have not been fully tested. So there is no proof that eating your placenta actually does these things. But some experts say we should continue to study it.

    In animals other than humans, eating the afterbirth has some perks. It might reduce labor pains in a female dog, for example, as her remaining puppies are born, and it can encourage the mother to bond with her newborns.

    Remember, though, that's for a dog, not for a woman.

    The placenta does have protein and fats. But those nutrients can be found in a healthy diet.

    Human placentophagy isn't new. Throughout history, different cultures have done it, although they don't always think it's a good thing. Some experts think that modern doulas and midwives may recommend placentophagy based on a misunderstanding of scientific literature.

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