Avoiding Postpartum Blues by Consuming Placenta – What is Mother Nature Telling Us?
There have been several simple explanations given for mammalian placenta consumption. One theory is that animals are terribly hungry after laborious birth and it is this hunger that compels them to consume the placenta. However, studies have shown that even when given a choice between several different meats for consumptions following birth, animals still readily chose to eat the placenta. This shows us that there is a more specific reason for the consumption of the placenta.
Another explanation given for the reason behind animal placenta consumption is sudden and specific hunger for the placenta as a result of birth. In other words, this theory indicates that undergoing the actual process of birth triggers a specific hunger for placenta. However, studies disprove this notion. Studies have shown that virgin animals, as well as animals that have not yet delivered their young, will enthusiastically go after the placenta of a donor animal (of their same species). These animals have not gone through the birthing process, yet they are just as attracted to the placenta and they readily consume it.
Another simplistic explanation for placentophagy is a sudden shift towards carnivorousness upon birth. This theory tells us that even confirmed herbivores, upon birth, will suddenly crave meat, thus influencing them to consume the placenta. The refuting evidence against this theory lies in the fact that, when given several choices of meats to consume postpartum, herbivorous mammals will only consume the placenta, thus indicating a more specific desire for this particular source of nutrition.
Perhaps the most popular of these simplistic explanations behind placentophagy is the theory that mothers consume the placenta postpartum in order to clean the nest site. In theory, this cleaning is done in order to keep their young safe from predation. To a person who argues for the nest site theory, one could explain that, though this theory may initially appear to be valid, there are several reasons why it simply does not hold true. The most obvious reason countering this theory is that even predators, who face no likely threats of their own, quickly and enthusiastically, consume their placentas postpartum. Another counter for this theory is that, for several species of animals, the young can quickly get up and walk away from the birth site, yet the mothers still do the strenuous work of consuming the full, fibrous placenta. It has also been observed that animals who deliver high in trees, such as some species of primates, will consume their placenta instead of allowing it to fall to the ground, which would be the most obvious and easiest avenue for cleaning their nest site.
One last rationale refuting the nest site theory is that not all of the afterbirth is consumed; only the placenta. In theory, if one is cleaning the site in order to avoid the threat of predation, they would clean every potential attracting substance that resulted from birth. This would include the placenta, blood and fluids associated with birth. Yet, no attempt is made at cleaning these other by-products. Only the placenta is consumed.