Afterbirth Artifice

CBC has the story of a woman in Charlottetown who is prepared to dehydrate your placenta and give it back to you in pill form for the discount price of $200.

Amber Morrissey says she can do the processing for about $200 for each client. She has already performed the service in four other Canadian provinces for 75 mothers.

“There hasn’t been many studies done on placenta ingestion,” Morrissey told CBC News Monday.

From looking at it, we want to say hormones, is probably the number one. Number two would be amount of vitamins, specifically the B vitamins, and iron and minerals. So it’s an entire concoction of replenishing your system post partum.”

From her website, we learn the benefits of placenta pills.

    • Stabilizing hormones, reducing your chances of postpartum depression and assisting in treating PPD (Post Partum Depression)
    • Reduction in postpartum “Baby Blues” which is not classified as depression, although can be very alarming. 
    • Reduced feelings of anxiety
    • Increased energy 
    • Increase in milk supply, and also to help bring in milk faster. 
    • Decrease postpartum bleeding 
    • Helps uterus return to pre-pregnancy state
    • Replenish lost vitamins & minerals (specifically iron) due to pregnancy and birth (the freezing process will destroy vitamin B complex but all other vitamins remain intact) 
    • Can help with sleep problems
    • There are many uses of the dried placenta in compress form, including diaper rash, nipple care etc.

Post partum depression (PPD), can be a debilitating illness that affects approximately 13% of all new mothers. In serious cases, mothers can be unable to care for themselves or their children. While it is impossible to predict whether or not you are at risk for PPD, there are a number of risk factors.

  • A history of moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
  • A family history of depression, anxiety disorders, or alcohol abuse.
  • A stressful event, such as the illness or death of a loved one, moving, or difficulties at work.
  • Lack of emotional support, including lack of a supportive partner or conflict with your partner.
  • Low self-esteem or trouble managing stress.
  • Unrealistic ideas about motherhood.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • If the pregnancy was unwanted.
  • A long, complicated pregnancy.
  • Having a newborn with physical or behavioral problems.

The exact causes are unknown, but experts believe that hormonal changes following birth are the most likely culprits. The condition can be aggravated by exhaustion and stress. Like all forms of severe depression, the primary treatments are talk therapy and anti-depressants, although hormone therapy can also be used.

Morrissey readily admits that there is no evidence for dehydrated placenta in preventing or

Placenta Pasta

treating PPD, and a search of PubMed reveals virtually no useful information one way or the other. It is certainly much more palatable than eating the placenta itself, although should you choose to go that route, there are no shortage of recipes.

Another potentially serious after-effect of birth is postpartum bleeding. This is very common, however is rare instances can require a hysterectomy as treatment. Most women chose to give birth in hospitals, so the risk of undetected uncontrollable bleeding is minimal. Again, there is no evidence to support the use of placenta in preventing postpartum bleeding.

There is nothing to suggest any direct harm from this, and certainly nothing to suggest anything useful either.  Sounds to me like a way to lighten the wallets of new parents. This is a vulnerable group who will do almost anything to ensure a healthy mother and child.

The other uses she promotes as uses for the placenta pills are also unproven, but the reliance on them has much less serious ramifications. However, if your doctor recommends vitamin and/or mineral supplements, it is best to use a product from a reputable manufacturer where the ingredients are known. There is no information beyond unsubstantiated claims as to the content of dehydrated placenta.

Also, on her website, Morrissey is also a self claimed acupressure and reiki expert. These do nothing to improve her credibility as reiki is merely faith healing under another name. Acupressure is using pressure on the imaginary meridians that have been used by acupuncture, a topic that has been discussed many times at Science Based Medicine. Again, while there are no real benefits from these treatments, there no direct risks. since both are non-invasive, the risk is entirely from the potential of avoiding or delaying proper medical care.

All in all, as long as you are being cared for by a MD, and if necessary experts in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, people who can recognize if serious complications arise the treatments above should do you no harm. There may be reasons why you would want the extra attention that might be available at her clinic, but your health and the health of your baby aren’t part of the equation.

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26 Responses to Afterbirth Artifice

  1. Amanda says:

    Your grammar sucks.

  2. Lily says:

    This is really poorly written and researched. Placenta encapsulation is a well-known service offered by many midwives and doulas. We are the only mammal who does NOT routinely eat the placenta after birth. But then again we do lots of things that are unnatural. As for Reiki and Acupressure both are established and useful alternatives to allopathic medicine. Finally, I think that in future blog posts it might be helpful for you to come up with some original material rather than relying solely on your borderline libelous critiques.

  3. Mr. Curmudgeon:

    I would suggest that you devote your time (if which you appear to have plenty) pursuing other activities. This poorly written and poorly researched article would indicate that blogging is not your strong suit. You should also consider an activity that somehow improves the world instead of just tearing people down.



  4. Katie says:

    Wow, you sure live up to your curmudgeonly moniker. Maybe you should try and find some joy in life that doesn’t involve attacking other people. How childish and miserable.

  5. Amy says:

    You clearly did not do your homework before writing this “article”, or rather editorial. There is absolutely scientific, empirical research documenting the benefits of placenta ingestion. Placenta ingestion has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for many,many years, as well as in many other cultures for benefit during the postpartum period. I would suggest that before attacking someone over something you clearly have no knowledge of and do not understand, you ought to do research and get your facts straight. Also, in the future you should refrain from essentially stealing information off of someone else’s blog and instead do the work yourself.

  6. I appreciate all the personal attacks. It must mean you have no substantive arguments to refute what I wrote?
    In my post, I reported the words of Ms. Morrissey herself, who admitted there were no studies on the effects of placenta ingestion. If you have any additional information I will update my article or write another one.
    The ‘appeal to antiquity’ is not a useful way to look at medical treatments. We have moved very far beyond the four humours and other types of medicine dealing with imaginary energy fields in the body. The claim that we should eat placenta because other species do is also ridiculous. There are many things other animals do that we do not, and vice versa.
    It has been demonstrated time and again that Reiki and Acupuncture function no better than placebo, believing otherwise is just that, belief.
    I believe I have referenced all of my quotes. As far as I know, I have not ‘stolen’ anything.
    Proofreading is a bitch, and I am always open to corrections.

    So, do you have any facts, or just personal attacks?

    • Amy says:

      What do you construe as a personal attack in my comment above? The assertion that you did not do your own research? You clearly didn’t. Over and over again you have insisted that we show you the research, rather than doing the work yourself. Where have you posted links to any of the research you have done or even cited them, other than Ms. Morrissey? The FACT is you haven’t. Also, placenta has more than one research article, many of which are current, so where you get the idea that the only research pointed out to you is 30 years old is beyond me! In addition, much of the research done on medications in general (as well as cosmetics, etc) is first done using animals, before it is done on humans. As far as the low-income women argument, many placenta encapsulation specialists offer discounts or barter to women who want to use their service but find finances to be an obstacle.

      • Your comment was not personal, the first three were. They were typical ad hominum attacks and just made the posters look foolish.

        You feel that I have missed valid research, I have stated that I have not been able to find anything that is pertinent. If you still maintain that more is there, please show it to me, there is nothing at that validates your claims. As far as animal studies are concerned, in pharmaceutical trials, they are used as an investigative tool, not a final determination. Following a positive result in animal trials, an introductory trial using a small number of people is conducted. Again, if there are still positive, and no serious negative effects, the next step is a clinical trial.

        Again, I want to point out that in Ms. Morrissey’s own words, there is no proof for the benefits of placentophagy. In my opinion, if there are no known benefits, any cost is too high.

      • Amy says:

        Did you read “Placenta as Lactagagon”? This study was done on women & they had positive results.

      • I have only been able to access the abstract, which doesn’t give a very good picture of the experimental design. If you have a copy of the paper, and would forward it to me, I would gladly give my opinion on whether or not the conclusions were valid and could be extrapolated to a larger population.

  7. Katie says:

    This any good to you, Mr. Curmudgeon?

    Also, who says you need to be cared for by an MD during pregnancy? Midwives are the standard of care for normal, healthy pregnancies. Maybe the problem isn’t Ms. Morrisey herself but your unwillingness to open your mind to anything out of your comfort zone. I think you need to do some more research before passing so much judgment.

  8. Amy says:

    There are many research studies, but I am confused as to how you would think that an editorial in which you did no research of your own could carry any weight. I am also confused as to why you would not simply perform a google search after being told that there IS available research, rather than asking commenters to do the work for you.

  9. robertmorrisey says:

    Ha! Spoken like a man who never has to give birth. This shouldn’t even be up for debate. The placenta belongs to the woman’s body… stop trying to marginalize & debunk something you don’t nor will ever understand.

    • Mayo Clinic (I’m sure you’ve heard of it) automatically places expectant mothers with midwives (of which they have a team) unless they are high risk OR specifically insist on seeing an obstetrician. I know this from experience. Makes the ‘cut and dried’ argument that midwives are not the standard of care a little shaky yes? Again with making the statements that are not actually based on research to confirm your ‘facts’. Disappointing.

      • There may be certain areas where the use of a midwife is included as part of the ‘standard of care’, but I don’t believe it it ubiquitous. From my reading of the Mayo Clinic site, physicians are included on the team. The midwives are also nurse-practitioners, something different that a birth doula.

        Besides, the issue of the use of midwives is not part of the discussion around placentophagy.

    • Also, I’m curious. Why do you care? You are not a woman of childbearing age, yet you rail on about his topic, making sure to name names and discredit someone simply because…why? I don’t understand why you are investing time in this. What has she done to you?

    • What does that have to do with anything. The majority of women I have mentioned this to were big on the ‘ick’ factor. I personally don’t care whether a woman eats her placenta. I just can’t find any medical benefit to it.

      Just because I do not fit a certain demographic, it does not follow that I do not care. I live in an areas with one of the lowest per-capita income in Canada. What I see here is someone promoting a product to new mothers that has no medical benefits and costs approximately $200. For many women, that $200 could buy a couple of weeks of groceries. That’s why I care.

      Debunk things? That’s what I do. Placentophagy is not free from critical analysis.

      • You use arguments and when we don’t agree then this is your response? Your words: “While midwives are quite common, they are not the ‘standard of care’ for any patient” opened that door. You made what could be considered an inaccurate statement and presented it in a factual tone so don’t be shocked that it was noticed. One last word on Mayo to dispell an inaccuracy. Those doctors you mention see the expectant mother twice in nine months for approximately 5 minutes per visit as a formality. Just so you know.

        I will agree that this is not part of the discussion though.

        My issue is more that you continue to make sweeping generalizations, don’t produce concrete evidence when asked, and then present it all as fact while personally targeting a specific person for your vitriol.

        Again, what did she do to YOU to deserve this?

  10. I haven’t replied with concrete evidence on placentophagy because I can’t find any. I have stated before that I am open to evidence and none has been forthcoming. Midwives may be common at the Mayo clinic, but in most of Canada, they are not. In an ideal world a pregnancy team should include a number of experts such as a dietician, a fitness consultant, a physician, and a midwife. Probably midwives should be more common and be assisting physicians through a woman’s pregnancy, however that is not the ‘standard of care’ throughout most of this country.

    Vitriol? I am merely suggesting that she is selling an unproven product that, if believed by others, has the potential to have a negative financial impact. I might ask you – what do you have against women in poverty?

    • I have nothing against women in poverty. I still live paycheck to paycheck. I also believe that women are perfectly capable of making smart decisions based on their circumstances. I have also had many conversations with the person who can be harmed by your article. If you actually knew her at all you would belive what I do.

      She is loving, caring and nurturing beyond measure. She would sooner cut off her own arm as take advantage of anyone. Her level of support and commitment to women is impossible to measure because it is so vast. She was very supportive to me in particular during my last pregnancy and postpartum. Not once did she try to “sell” me anything. I honestly don’t know what her business strategy is, but the image of her trying to take advantage of economically disadvantaged women is so absurd to me that I cannot stay out of this conversation no matter how hard I try. Having said all of that, I look forward to future comments and exchange of information and grudgingly admire your tenacity.

      • I believe I answered this already. I have no doubt that Ms. Morrissey is as caring as you say. However, she is, in her own words, selling a service for which she has no proof of efficacy. Whether she was selling this particular service/product to you or not is irrelevant, as in her interview with the press, selling this is her goal.
        In addition, reiki and acupressure are both techniques that have been demonstrated to have no medical benefit.

  11. doulagirl says:

    isn’t one of the placenta’s functions to act as kind of a filter or barrier to protect the fetus from certain microbes and other nasty things? So, why would you want to eat it after months of filtering waste?

    and isnt it illegal to call yourself a midwife in canada if you dont have a university degree and this morrissey person is studying through some sketchy institute and idolizes “midwives” like gloria lemay who have served jail sentences for practicing illegal midwifery in canada.

    I’m a supporter of natural birth, but please for the babies sake be qualified take the precautions and get educated. study real midwifery not the wish washy type.

  12. Pingback: More on Cannibalistic Medicine | PEI Curmudgeon's Blog

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