“Postnatal depression blood test breakthrough” proclaimed the headline. The UK Guardian article then declared:
British doctors reveal ‘extremely important’ research that could help tens of thousands of women at risk.
Here it comes. Readers were going to be fed a press release generated by the study’s authors and forwarded undigested by the media but disguised as writings of a journalist. If only the journo had asked someone in the know about the likelihood of a single study yielding such breakthrough blood test for risk of depression in new mothers.
The story echoed earlier churnalism from Sky News, British satellite television news service:
There is evidence that if you can identify women at risk early you could treat early or introduce measures to prevent or stop the process of the disease.
A study of 200 pregnant women, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found two molecular “signatures” in the genes that increased the risk of postnatal depression by up to five times. One in seven new mothers suffer from depression.
After giving birth, most mammals eat the afterbirth, the placenta. Most humans don’t. Several hypotheses have been suggested as to why placentophagy might have had evolutionary survival value, but are there any actual benefits for modern women? Placentophagy has been recommended for various reasons, from nutritional benefit to preventing postpartum depression to “honoring the placenta.” In other cultures, various rituals surround the placenta including burial and treating it as sacred or as another child with its own spirit. Eating the placenta is promoted by some modern New Age, holistic, and “natural-is-good” cultural beliefs.
Some women eat it raw, but many women have a yuck-factor objection to eating raw bloody tissue. It can be cooked: recipes are available for preparing it in various ways. For those who don’t like the idea of eating the tissue, placenta encapsulation services are available, putting placenta into a capsule that is more esthetically acceptable and that can even be frozen and saved for later use in menopause.
Does placentophagia benefit health? Does it constitute cannibalism? It it just a way to recycle nutrients? How can science inform our thinking about this practice? (more…)