No joke — “It provokes an increase in mother-infant interaction,” say University of Buffalo researchers.
From the media release:
A paper by neuroscientists at the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College suggests that ingestion of components of afterbirth or placenta — placentophagia — may offer benefits to human mothers and perhaps to non-mothers and males.
They say this possibility does not warrant the wholesale ingestion of afterbirth, for some very good reasons, but that it deserves further study…
They point out that the benefits of placenta ingestion (as well as the ingestion of amniotic fluid) by non-human mammalian mothers are significant. It provokes an increase in mother-infant interaction, for instance, and increases the effects of pregnancy-mediated analgesia in the delivering mother. It also potentiates opioid circuits in the maternal brain that facilitate the onset of caretaking behavior, and suppresses postpartum pseudopregnancy, thereby increasing the possibilities for fertilization.
“Human childbirth is fraught with additional problems for which there are no practical nonhuman animal models,” says Kristal, citing postpartum depression, failure to bond and maternal hostility toward the infant.
He says ingested afterbirth may contain components that ameliorate these problems, but although there have been many anecdotal claims made for human placentophagia, the issue has not been tested empirically.
“If such studies are undertaken,” he says, “the results, if positive, will be medically relevant. If the results are negative, speculations and recommendations will persist, as it is not possible to prove the negative”…