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Placenta Pills Suspected In Infant Infection

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Health officials are warning new mothers on the potential dangers of taking placenta pills, after an infant in Oregon got an infection linked to this practice.

The practice of eating the placenta is a trend among some mothers, who believe that doing so helps with postpartum depression, breast milk production and energy, ABC News reports. In the last decade, the fad has risen in popularity, with some celebrity moms promoting it online. A rough estimate by researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas puts tens of thousands of American moms taking placenta pills and other placenta products.

However, a report published Thursday by a group of doctors and health officials says that an infant had fallen sick in Portland, Oregon, last fall. The suspected culprits are placenta capsules the mother had been taking. Placenta capsules are not regulated, the doctors warn, and there is no guarantee that their manufacturing is free from harmful bacteria.

This is perhaps the strongest statement against the practice, says Sharon Young, a UNLV researcher. Young says there is no hard evidence that proves placenta pills work, and one UNLV study found that placenta pills were no better source of iron compared to placebos.

Young adds,

I’ve heard physicians say there’s no benefit to doing it, that it’s pointless. But I can’t remember a statement so strongly advising against it, from a physician or anyone.

The baby in Oregon fell ill two times with a strep infection. The first time, authorities believe that the mother passed on the infection during birth. The mother then began taking placenta capsules, and the child got sick again weeks later. Tests found bacteria present in the pills.

The mother had sent her placenta off to an agency that offers to clean, slice, dehydrate and turn it into gel pills. It’s possible that the company did not heat the placenta enough to kill germs, investigators say.

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