Scientific Research

Placentophagia: A Biobehavioral Enigma

Kristal, M. B. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 4(2) 141-150, 1980.


Placenta ingestion by rats enhances δ- and κ-opioid antinociception, but suppresses μ-opioid antinociception

Jean M. DiPirro, Mark B. Kristal


Enhancement of opioid-mediated analgesia: A solution to the enigma of placentophagia

Mark B. Kristal,Received 4 January 1991. Available online 18 October 2005.


Placenta as Lactagagon

Soykova-Pachnerova E, et. al.(1954). Gynaecologia 138(6):617-627.

An attempt was made to increase milk secretion in mothers by administration of dried placenta per os. Of 210 controlled cases only 29 (13.8%) gave negative results; 181 women (86.2%) reacted positively to the treatment, 117 (55.7%) with good and 64 (30.5%) with very good results. It could be shown by similar experiments with a beef preparation that the effective substance in placenta is not protein. Nor does the lyofilised placenta act as a biogenic stimulator so that the good results of placenta administration cannot be explained as a form of tissue therapy per os. The question of a hormonal influence remains open. So far it could be shown that progesterone is probably not active in increasing lactation after administration of dried placenta.

This method of treating hypogalactia seems worth noting since the placenta preparation is easily obtained, has not so far been utilized and in our experience is successful in the majority of women.


Effects of placentophagy on serum prolactin and progesterone concentrations in rats after parturition or superovulation.

Blank MS, Friesen HG.: J Reprod Fertil. 1980 Nov;60(2):273-8.
doi: 10.1530/jrf.0.0600273

In rats that were allowed to eat the placentae after parturition concentrations of serum prolactin were elevated on Day 1 but concentrations of serum progesterone were depressed on Days 6 and 8 post partum when compared to those of rats prevented from eating the placentae. In rats treated with PMSG to induce superovulation serum prolactin and progesterone values were significantly (P < 0.05) elevated on Days 3 and 5 respectively, after being fed 2 g rat placenta/day for 2 days. However, feeding each rat 4 g placenta/day
significantly (P < 0.02) lowered serum progesterone on Day 5. Oestrogen injections or bovine or human placenta in the diet had no effect. The organic phase of a petroleum ether extract of rat placenta (2 g-equivalents/day) lowered peripheral concentrations of progesterone on Day 5, but other extracts were ineffective. We conclude that the rat placenta contains orally-active substance(s) which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones.


Baby blues – postpartum depression attributed to low levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone after placenta is gone – BRIEF ARTICLE

Many new mothers feel depressed for weeks after giving birth. Physicians have vaguely attributed this malaise to exhaustion and to the demands of motherhood. But a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health has found evidence for a more specific cause of postpartum blues. New mothers, the researchers say, have lower than normal levels of a stress-fighting hormone that earlier studies have found helps combat depression.
When we are under stress, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH. Its secretion triggers a cascade of hormones that ultimately increases the amount of another hormone – called cortisol – in the blood. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels and maintains normal blood pressure, which helps us perform well under stress. Normally the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream is directly related to the amount of CRH released from the hypothalamus. That’s not the case in pregnant women.
During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes a lot of CRH. The rise is so dramatic that CRH levels in the maternal bloodstream increase threefold. “We can only speculate,” says George Chrousos, the endocrinologist who led the NIH study, “but we think it helps women go through the stress of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.”
But what happens after birth, when the placenta is gone? Chrousos and his colleagues monitored CRH levels in 17, women from the last trimester to a year after they gave birth. All the women had low levels of CRH – as low as seen in some forms of depression – in the six weeks following birth. The seven women with the lowest levels felt depressed.
Chrousos suspects that CRH levels are temporarily low in new mothers because CRH from the placenta disrupts the feedback system that regulates normal production of the hormone. During pregnancy, when CRH levels are high in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus releases less CRH. After birth, however, when this supplementary source of CRH is gone, it takes a while for the hypothalamus to get the signal that it needs to start making more CRH.
“This finding gives reassurance to people that postpartum depression is a transient phenomenon,” says Chrousos. “It also suggests that there is a biological cause.”
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COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group


Hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone suppression during the postpartum period: implications for the increase in psychiatric manifestations at this time.

M A Magiakou,G Mastorakos,D Rabin, B Dubbert, P W Gold and G P Chrousos
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, May 1, 1996 vol. 81 no. 5 1912-1917
doi: 10.1210/jc.81.5.1912


Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition

John L. Beard, et. al.; J. Nutr. 135: 267–272, 2005.

ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to determine whether iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in mothers alters their maternal cognitive and behavioral performance, the mother-infant interaction, and the infant’s development. This article focuses on the relation between IDA and cognition as well as behavioral affect in the young mothers. This prospective, randomized, controlled, intervention trial was conducted in South Africa among 3 groups of mothers: nonanemic controls and anemic mothers receiving either placebo (10 g folate and 25 mg vitamin C) or daily iron (125 mg FeS04, 10 g folate, 25 mg vitamin C). Mothers of full-term normal birth weight babies were followed from 10 wk to 9 mo postpartum (n 81). Maternal hematologic and iron status, socioeconomic, cognitive, and emotional status, motherinfant interaction, and the development of the infants were assessed at 10 wk and 9 mo postpartum. Behavioral and cognitive variables at baseline did not differ between iron-deficient anemic mothers and nonanemic mothers. However, iron treatment resulted in a 25% improvement (P  0.05) in previously iron-deficient mothers’ depression and stress scales as well as in the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test. Anemic mothers administered placebo did not improve in behavioral measures. Multivariate analysis showed a strong association between iron status variables (hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and transferrin saturation) and cognitive variables (Digit Symbol) as well as behavioral variables (anxiety, stress, depression). This study demonstrates that there is a strong relation between iron status and depression, stress, and cognitive functioning in poor African mothers during the postpartum period. There are likely ramifications of this poorer “functioning” on mother-child interactions and infant development, but the constraints around this relation will have to be defined in larger studies.


The Impact of Fatigue on the Development of Postpartum Depression

Elizabeth J. Corwin, (2005); Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing 34 (5) , 577–586
DOI: 10.1177/0884217505279997


Iron supplementation for unexplained fatigue in non-anaemic women: double blind randomised placebo controlled trial

F Verdon, et. al.; BMJ 2003;326:1124 (24 May)


Have we forgotten the significance of postpartum iron deficiency?

Lisa M. Bodnar, et. al.; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2005) 193, 36–44