For trendy young mothers with money to burn, bottling and eating the placenta of your child is all the rage. The services, costing in excess of $1000, promise increased vitamins that are allegedly good for a young mother's health.
The practice has been used by celebutants like Kourtney Kardashian, celebrities like January Jones and even celebrity CEOs like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer.
But a review by Northwestern University found absolutely no proven benefits while also uncovering that no research has been done on the potential risks.
The review, published in the Archives of Women's Mental Health, looked at 10 published studies related on placenta eating by humans.
Whether eaten raw, cooked or in pill form, no study was able to show any health benefits of the practice, which is uncommon in humans but is done by wild animals.
Placentophagy, the term given to the practice by bloggers and social media users, has been credited with all sorts of too good to be true health claims such as reduced pain after delivery, increase energy levels, increased breast milk production and even credited with enhancing bonding between mother and child.
It has also been credited with replenishing iron stores in the body, yet the researchers said this was based on subjective reports rather than actual scientific research.
More worryingly, the researchers also found no studies which looked at the risks associated with eating the placenta, which is surprising given the organ acts as a filter to absorb and protect the developing fetus from toxins and pollutants present in a mother's bloodstream.
The result is that deadly bacteria or viruses remain within the placenta tissues after birth.
Cynthia Coyle, lead author of the study and a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University, said:
"Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants.
There are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, and the dosing is inconsistent.
"Women really don't know what they are ingesting."
Dr Daghni Rajasingam, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a prestigious UK medical body concurred, saying that although the placenta is very rich in blood flow, there were serious potential risks to ingesting it.
"What women do with their placenta is up to them - but I wouldn't recommend they eat it."
The news will surely not be welcomed by the snake oil industry of quack science that has sprung up around the practice of placenta eating. The services can charge in excess of $1000 to prepare the bodily fluids for consumption after pregnancy. Its big business and the latest research could see either the FDA or FTC become involved given the numerous off-base health claims service providers are making.