Mothers face ban on taking placenta pills

Eating afterbirth is an ancient practice, but now the EU is considering outlawing the capsules

To an unborn child, it's a lifeline; to hospitals, biohazhard waste for the incinerator; to most parents, an element of childbirth they'd really rather forget. But for a growing number of new mothers, including January Jones and Alicia Silverstone, the placenta has become a crucial post-birth ingredient in the battle to ward off post-natal depression and cope with those overwhelming first few months.

Thousands of women swear by the latest incarnation of the phenomenon: having your placenta encapsulated into easy-to-pop pills that are said to provide an energy boost, restore iron levels, and help breast-milk production.

But a shock ruling last week has put the centuries-old tradition under threat, after the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) stepped in to classify placenta as a "novel food". Lawyers said the move undermined women's rights to decide what to do with their bodies.

The UK Food Standards Agency has granted a one-month window, until 11 July, for anyone unhappy with the ruling to prove that human placenta is not a so-called novel food. This requires evidence that EU women were eating their placentas before 15 May 1997, the date the European Commission introduced novel food legislation to stop the sale of products derived from GM crops. Today, the term covers anything from exotic fruit and vegetables, such as the baobab fruit, to meat from cloned animals.

It means that from mid-July, anyone offering placenta encapsulation services will be at "risk of prosecution or unlawful marketing of novel food", said Elizabeth Prochaska, a barrister specialising in women's rights for the charity Birthrights.

The ruling threatens the future for 102 members of the Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network (Ipen), a grassroots group of midwives and doulas, or labour coaches, set up three years ago to tap into the trend for eating placenta. Ipen practitioners, who normally work from their own homes, charge £150 for capsules and £25 to make a placenta smoothie.

Carly Lewis, 34, a mother of two who has offered Ipen services for a year, said a blanket ban would be wrong because placentas were not being sold as food. "We're just processing a woman's own placenta."

There is no medical evidence supporting placentophagy, as it's technically known; every woman's placenta is unique, so reported benefits – as recently reported in a University of Nevada study – remain anecdotal. But many cultures, such as the Chinese, have long believed dried placenta to be restorative.

Tanya Hempenstall, 40, from south London, had her placenta dried and made into pills after the birth of her second son, Ryan, which involved a Caesarean section and the loss of 1.5 litres of blood. She said: "My recovery was so quick... [the placenta] is something that's come out of my body, so I should be responsible for the effects it has on me."

Ms Prochaska added: "It's strange to classify something that's part of a woman's physiology as a novel food. Legally it's not very clear cut."

Janet Fyle, a policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Some women who've had post-natal depression find it makes a difference." She added: "Whatever women do in their own home is their business."

The FSA would have to approve any application to sell placenta as a novel food, a process that Ipen said would take up to three years, require extensive laboratory testing, and be very expensive.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test