The XX Factor

A “Growing” Number of Women Eat Their Own Placentas. In Brooklyn.

Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The best line of the New York Magazine article “The Placenta Cookbook” (subhead: “For a growing number of new mothers, there’s no better nutritional snack after childbirth than the fruit of their own labor”) has to be this one, profiling a “professional placenta preparer”: “Her clients are mostly middle-class, like Hughes and her husband, Doug, who are college-educated, in their thirties, and live on a gentrifying street in Crown Heights.” I think that last clause is only meant to refer to those specific clients, but it reads so much better the other way. Of course a professional placenta preparer’s clients mostly live on a gentrifying street in Crown Heights.

I thought we were done making fun of Brooklyn, but it appears Brooklyin’s residents aren’t done holding them selves up for mockery. It’s not at all clear how tongue-in-cheek the article is (although no one loves Brooklyn-baiting like New York), but one has to suspect phrases like “a group of mothers organized a placenta picnic in Prospect Park.” And although the author of the article did manage to find pockets of “placentophagia” (that would be placenta-eating) in Nevada and on Long Island, there can be no practice that better reflects all of the overwrought stereoptypes of the Brooklyn new parent than the serving of “placenta jerky” at a dinner party.

Proponents say eating one’s own placenta can result in better moods, more successful breast-feeding, a reduced chance of post-partum depression and more energy, all of which are results I can imagine getting myself from being excused from any table where placenta—mine or otherwise—was being served. There are no studies (for perhaps obvious reasons) supporting those claims. The same women also point out that “virtually every land mammal” eats her placenta, although even the country’s “leading (and perhaps only) authority on placentophagia” says he doesn’t really know why. What he doesn’t say—but I will—is that many, if not most, land mammals also eat their infants’ poop. It’s a completely natural product that, if you’re nursing, is (as the profiled placenta preparer says of the placenta) “made by your body, for your body”—only slightly less directly. “So,” as she says, “why wouldn’t you want to try?”