Could placenta be the key to postpartum recovery?

Jodi Selander remembers how she felt after giving birth to her first child in 2005. It wasn't a pleasant feeling.

"After she was born, I felt like I had been hit by a truck," said Selandar, from Nevada. "It was overwhelming. My mood was poor, and I was exhausted. Everything felt so hard."

Selander didn't want to experience those symptoms ever again, so she did her own personal research into the matter. Following her next pregnancy, she decided to turn to – of all things –  her placenta, as a cure for her postpartum blues. Selander consumed her placenta through a process of dehydrating and grounding it into a powder that was then encapsulated into pills.

Now, Selander owns a company that performs this service for women in the Las Vegas area.

The mother of three recently teamed up with researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to conduct a three-month survey of 189 women who had consumed their placenta after birth.  They asked the women why they had done it, how they consumed it (dehydrated, steamed or raw) and if they would try it again.

The results, which were published in the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition, showed that 95 percent of participants reported a positive or very positive experience.

"Things like improved lactation, postpartum bleeding was alleviated, and postpartum recovery was either sped up or improved in general," said Sharon Young, a researcher and a UNLV graduate student.

But as with every study, there were some negative experiences.

"(These) primarily had to do with the appeal – the appeal of the placenta itself even in capsules – and things like unpleasant belching," said Daniel Benyshek, another member of the research team and UNLV medical anthropologist.

The placenta's role in curing these conditions is still up for debate, with both Selander and researchers at UNLV stating that more studies need to be done.

"There's still a lot of criticism: ‘Well you don't know what it's doing, or it's probably just placebo effect' and things like that," said Selander. "We'd really like to actually have a study that tests placenta versus placebo."