"It has been shown that the feeding of desiccated placenta to women during the first eleven days after parturition causes an increase in the protein and lactose percent of the milk... All the mothers were receiving the same diet, and to the second set 0.6mg of desiccated placenta was fed three times a day throughout the period. Certain definite differences in the progress of growth of the two sets of infants are to be observed. It is evident that the recovery from the postnatal decline in weight is hastened by the consumption of milk produced under the influence of maternally ingested placenta." McNeile, Lyle G. 1918. The American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children, 77. W.A. Townsend & Adams, original press: University of Michigan.
"Powdered Placenta Hominis was used for 57 cases of insufficient lactation. Within 4 days, 48 women had markedly increased milk production, with the remainder following suit over the next three days." Bensky/Gamble. 1997. Materia Medica, Eastland Press, 549.
"All patients were given desiccated placenta prepared as previously described (C.A. II, 2492) in doses of 10 grains in a capsule 3 times a day. Only those mothers were chosen for the study whose parturition was normal and only the weights of those infants were recorded whose soul source of nourishment was mothers milk. The growth of 177 infants was studied. The rate of growth is increased by the ingestion of placenta by the mother... the maternal ingestion of dried placenta tissue so stimulates the tissues of the infants feeding on the milk produced during this time, that unit weight is able to add on greater increments of matter, from day to day, than can unit weight of infants feeding on milk from mothers not ingesting this substance." Hammett, Frederick. S. 1918. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 36. American Society of Biological Chemists, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, original press: Harvard University.
"Giving...placenta to a new mother following birth has become standard protocol among a growing number of midwives in the United States. By nourishing the blood and fluids, endocrine glands and organs, Placenta will ...reduce or stop postpartum bleeding, speed up recovery, boost energy and relieve postpartum blues." Homes, Peter. 1993. Jade Remedies, Snow Lotus Press, 352.
Historically, traditional Chinese medicine has used the placenta to help increase lactation in women who had inadequate supply. Research has now been done to help explain the benefits of this practice and give us a look into the science behind it. It is interesting to note that almost all mammals ingest their placenta after birthing and easily nurse their young without problems. Today, only 25% of women are still breastfeeding their children at 6 months, compared to 81% at birth. There are many other reasons that women quit breastfeeding but one of the most common is that the woman has an inadequate supply. In a study of 210 postpartum women fed their placentas after birth, it showed that 86.2% of them had positive results. This study used some first time moms and many second time moms that had experienced difficulty with milk supply while nursing their previous children. Positive results were usually seen within 2 to 3 days after taking the placenta. Another interesting study was being carried out at the same time using cows and studying their milk supply after placenta ingestion. While definite results were not ye available, research so far showed that cows that consumed their placenta produced 1 liter more of milk per day than cows that did not. So what is the substance is the placenta that has such a marked benefit on lactation? Researchers thought that it might be protein and began another experiment. In this, they used beef instead of placenta. They treated the beef the same way they did the placenta and gave the same amount (65g) of beef to each participant. The results yielded only a 33% positive result, with 66% of the participants showing no effect at all. The conclusion of this study was that protein was not the main substance in the placenta that caused an increase in milk supply. An interesting explanation is that placenta medicine is an effective form of tissue therapy. The placenta is a piece of tissue expelled from a mammal and then after processing is reintroduced. It is understood that tissues undergo a biochemical change when separated from an organism and undergoing unfavorable conditions (such as encapsulation). These conditions cause substances to be formed that stimulate biochemical processes, called biogenic stimulators. These biogenic stimulators are not present until the tissue leaves the organism. According to the study: “Biogenic stimulators, introduced into the organism one way or another, activate life processes, increase cellular metabolism and intensify the physiological functions of the organism.” (Placenta as a Lactagogon) This is an interesting hypothesis on why and how placenta medicine works. It may also explain the reason that placenta is beneficial as a supplement, but a retained placenta is detrimental to milk supply. Another explanation is the hormones present in the placenta. The placenta is full of hormones – including prolactin, all of which were specifically created by the mammal that ingests it. Prolactin is the hormone that is responsible for stimulating the mammary glands to produce milk. Hormones would most definitely have an effect on milk production and supply.
The most common single nutrient deficiency today is iron deficiency. Conventionally, the risk of iron deficiency is thought to be lowest right after child birth. However recent research has shown that the prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia is growing, especially among low income women. The standard American diet is insufficient to meet the iron needs of pregnant women. If left unsupplemented, most women are at risk of developing iron deficiency during pregnancy.
Iron deficiency has many symptoms, the most common of which is fatigue. After delivery there are many new stresses and responsibilities that a new mother must undertake. The sleepless nights, recovery period, and busy days add a lot of stress to a new mother coping with fatigue. Her effectiveness and quality of work may be impaired as well as her cognitive function, verbal skills and memory. This is no way to spend the bonding period after bringing a precious new life into the world.
Postpartum fatigue is a predictor of postpartum depression and must be taken into consideration and treated. While “baby blues” are a common postpartum occurrence, effecting between 50 and 80 percent of women today, postpartum depression has a lesser occurrence of between 20 and 30 percent. While baby blues are not a predictor of postpartum depression, there is evidence that fatigue is a good indicator. A well documented treatment option for women of childbearing age experiencing fatigue caused by iron deficiency is iron supplementation. Even in non-anemic women, iron supplementation has been shown to be a viable treatment option for fatigue. A random clinical trial of 136 women of childbearing age suffering from unexplained fatigue showed that there was a benefit to iron supplementation even in non-anemic women. Even though the women’s iron levels were normal their iron stores may have been low which is why they responded well to supplementation.
In traditional Chinese medicine the placenta is used to treat fatigue in postpartum women. In an examination of 49 intact cords and placentas, it was shown that the placenta is a very good source of iron, as well as protein, vitamin B6 and many beneficial hormones. Chinese medicine uses the placenta to augment the Qi and bring the postpartum body back into balance and nourish the blood – both are believed to cause fatigue if disturbed.
In conclusion, there is evidence that using the iron rich placenta internally after childbirth can be a good way to prevent iron deficiency. Extra iron, even in non-anemic women, is an excellent way to prevent fatigue, which has been shown to be a predictor of postpartum depression. Placenta medicine is a very promising and common sense way to help support postpartum women during a very important time in their lives.
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