The TGA is aware of several websites offering expectant mothers services for the preparation of the placenta for consumption; a practice known as placentophagy. We are advising expectant mothers to be aware of the potential risks associated with placenta consumption.
A range of preparation methods are offered, including cooking or drying and encapsulating, with the intention for you, family members or others to consume the placental material after childbirth. More rarely, websites may also offer placenta or placenta-containing medicines made from other human sources. Often these services are offered by a midwife or doula; generally people who provide support and advice to women during pregnancy, birth and after birth.
There is currently no evidence to support the claims of health benefits associated with consuming human placenta, and the broader risks are unknown.
Potential health risks for consumers
As an expectant or new mother, you should be aware of the potential health risks associated with the preparation and consumption of your placenta.
Human placenta is a biological material and is capable of containing and transmitting infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses. In addition, preparation may inadvertently introduce infectious agents. The risk of transmission may be even greater if your placenta is ingested by another person or you ingest another person's placenta.
Generally the placenta is discarded after childbirth and as a result there are no regulations on how placental material is to be stored and prepared to ensure it is safe for consumption.
Potential legal implications for service providers
Prepared placenta products, including in capsule or tablet form, are often associated with claims that consumption will have some therapeutic benefit for mothers and/or children, for example, improving mood, energy levels and milk production.
Such claims run the risk of bringing these products under the regulatory framework that covers 'biologicals', governed by legislation that regulates therapeutic goods. This includes the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and corresponding legislation in several states and territories.
Under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, it is an offence to make therapeutic biological products without holding the appropriate licence. The Regulatory framework for biologicals page provides further information on licensing requirements. The licence provisions are designed to ensure that the product is manufactured in conditions that will minimise risk to the user. Products that are classed as therapeutic goods must also be approved by the TGA to ensure they are of good quality, safe and effective for the intended purpose.
These laws also contain substantial penalties, including criminal sanctions, for people making or supplying unapproved biological products, and prohibit the advertising of biological products to the public.
Depending on the circumstances and the claims made in relation to the product, these laws could also apply to the midwife, doula or even the mother involved.
For further information you can contact the TGA on 1800 020 653.