I am writing this post as a follow-up to this article on the historical evidence against placenta consumption. Although I realize that Christians may disagree on this subject, I thought it would be helpful to assemble some of the principles in the Bible that may help an individual Christian to decide if placenta encapsulation or some other way of ingestion is in harmony with that person's conscience. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a Christian, you may find some of these arguments interesting.
The three main points that I feel are relevant to this discussion are these:
The Placenta is a Human Organ
Before my second child was born I mentioned to my mother that I was thinking about encapsulating the placenta. Her response was immediate.
I can't say that I agreed with her view right away, as I had been reading all about the various benefits to placenta encapsulation, and thought that she was being extreme and dismissive. But, I did later look up the definition of cannibalism.
Wikipedia defines 'cannibalism' in this way: "Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal."
Turns out Mom was right.
Romans 2:15 tells us: "They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them, and by their own thoughts they are being accused or even excused." Cannibalism is one of those things that we understand intuitively to be wrong. Our conscience tells us that to eat parts of other humans is not right. We just know it to be true; it's "written on our hearts".
Now I'm sure that the thousands of women who have had their placenta encapsulated would not like to be labeled as cannibals, but according to the definition of cannibalism, that is in fact what is happening. Given that cannibalism has been a taboo in nearly every other human culture, one that has only been broken in times of absolute famine, it's more apparent why placenta consumption has also been almost unheard of in human history. (Please see my other post for more information on the evidence for that statement).
Some argue that the mother is eating her OWN organ, so it's not cannibalism. However, the definition is not so specific. If a woman ate her OWN foot, would she be a cannibal? Yes. There is also the question as to whether the placenta belongs to the mother or to the baby. Given that the purpose of the placenta is to maintain the life of the baby, and is expelled after the baby is born, it seems most correct to refer to the placenta as belonging to the baby. So the mother is really eating her baby's placenta, which fits with the established definition of cannibalism. Personally, I do not wish to be a cannibal in any way.
The Placenta's purpose is to provide blood to the baby, but Christians were commanded to "abstain from blood".
Some readers may be familiar with Acts 15:28,29. This is when the apostles handed their decision to the congregation on the matter of circumcision. They were inspired to write that this practice was no longer necessary to be identified as one of God's worshippers, but they were to keep themselves from "things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality." They went on to say that they would prosper if they followed this counsel.
Although Christians can and eat the organs of animals that are properly bled, I can't help put feeling that because the entire purpose of the placenta is to provide blood to the baby from the mother, and, even when drained, it's quite a bloody organ, that eating it would violate my conscience, because I take this command to abstain from blood quite seriously. Another Christian may feel differently, but this may be a factor to consider for your own conscience.
The only verse that speaks of placenta consumption in the Bible paints it in a very negative light.
We can find this in Deuteronomy 28:56, 57. The context shows that God is explaining to the Israelites what will happen to them if they do not uphold their promise to follow his commandments. They will lose His protection, be overrun by the surrounding nations, and experience poverty and famine, to the point that "the most delicate and sensitive woman among you..will show no pity...even toward the afterbirth that comes from between her legs and towards the sons she bears, for she will secretly eat them because of the severity of the seige..."
According to this verse, eating the placenta is what might have been done when there is NO OTHER FOOD. It was done in secret, not celebrated. To consume the placenta was to be reduced to the level of the animals. While many believe that animals and humans are equal in importance, the Bible makes it clear in Genesis 1:26 that that humans are made in God's image, and that He made animals to be "in subjection" to humans. Again, this fits with what we know of human cultures traditionally regarding placenta consumption AND animals. Most mammals (aside from humans) DO consume the placenta after birth. But the vast majority of humans do not naturally do this, and never have.
Notes on Placentophagy, by W.B. Ober, is an article that is often cited by supporters of human placenta consumption. However a careful reading of this text will reveal that Ober found in his research that, again, historically uses for the placenta were almost entirely relegated to superstition or ceremonial uses. In fact, Ober refers to anthropologists who wonder about the distinction between man and beast, and says, "...an equally plausible distinction might be that man, that is, civilized man, does not eat his own placenta."
Not everyone believes that the Bible is inspired of God. But many do, and feel that the Creator's words to us are "beneficial for teaching and reproving and setting things straight. While the Bible doesn't tell us whether placenta consumption or encapsulation is right or wrong, I do feel that the message that we get from the Holy Scriptures is a cautionary one. Each person is responsible for their own decisions and conscience, and I certainly do not think badly of anyone who chooses to encapsulate the placenta, but personally I still have two in my freezer, waiting to be planted under a fruit tree next spring.
What do you think? Have you considered these arguments before?
9/22/2015 03:15:20 pm
This is so ridiculous I couldn't even finish it!
3/2/2016 02:48:22 pm
Not Christian, so Bible does not concern me much. But was thinking about the fact that I eat skin, that I chew from my fingers. So I eat something that comes from my body and do not think I am a canibal. Or if my finger bleeds and I hold it in my mouth I also eat blood. So to me eating something that is mine seems just natural. But I also do think I am a mammal, so that is probably why.
Beyond Birth Support- Sara
3/2/2016 08:05:41 pm
Hi Liga- Thanks for your comment :) I do think that the intent of the consumption matters. Women who ingest ingest placenta are doing so deliberately for the nourishment it provides. Eating small bits of skin from your own fingers isn't remotely the same thing imo. Nor is briefly sucking on a finger, etc.
4/5/2018 09:23:52 am
You might not be Christian, and you might not be concerned with what the Bible says, but you should be. God said that His Word is the standard by which you will one day be judged. That makes it exceedingly important.
4/18/2016 08:19:29 pm
I think you did a great job on research. For those of us who prefer making decisions based on knowledge, this gave some insight into the matter. However, the Watchtower brought out that the vs you made reference to was often used at the end of a letter as a form of well wishes to the reader. Not necessarily stating a connection between the command and the health of the one obeying the command. But I appreciated your information and am inclined to agree with you. I have never eaten my placentas but rather planted them in the garden. Good job. M
1/21/2017 07:31:49 pm
I interpreted Deuteronomy 28:56-57 very differently. I took it to mean that "your enemy will lay siege to your city in such a way that women would rather eat their children and afterbirth than allow their children to fall subject to your enemy."
Beyond Birth Support
1/21/2017 08:26:21 pm
Hi! Thanks for your comment. I can see what you are saying, but I think either way the impression of eating placenta in this verse is still negative.
12/19/2020 05:39:22 pm
You might want to consider the part of v57 that says "..she will eat them because she will have nothing else to eat.." It is clear that severe hunger as a result of the siege is the reason she eats them.
Sara E Reimold
12/19/2020 05:52:36 pm
The reasoning behind why she eats the placenta doesn't really change the negative connotation. A person might choose to steal because they are severely hungry, but that doesn't change the fact that it's wrong to steal.
Thank you so much for this article! I'm pregnant with my second child. Planning to use a doula or midwife. The company from which I'm planning on obtaining Services, offers placenta encapsulation. I thought the benefits sounded highly intriguing. However, on a conscientious level, I was concerned, biblically, about the correctness of this action. So I sought out anything that was biblical in reference. Thank you so very much for this article again! I will not be doing encapsulation.
Beyond Birth Support
2/24/2017 10:20:35 pm
Hi Theresa! Congratulations on your pregnancy, and I'm happy that you found this information helpful! Thanks for commenting also.
3/27/2017 02:38:39 pm
You are correct, Sara. And remember - whether or not people follow scripture is not right or wrong based on people's consciences. I once had someone tell me that their conscience wasn't bothered to go 10 miles over the speed limit. If a police man stopped her going 80 in a 70 area, he's not going to not give her a ticket because her conscience wasn't bothered about it. The world will be quite shocked when they stand before the Lord on judgment day and find out His Word is what they are judged by - not their consciences.
12/16/2022 09:46:30 am
Amen to this!
4/12/2017 09:50:10 am
Thanks for your article!
Beyond Birth Support
4/12/2017 10:33:05 am
Hi Kandace! You raise some good questions.
4/12/2017 02:33:19 pm
Agreed and looking forward to your response. Thanks much.
3/5/2018 09:10:48 pm
The placenta is a human organ, "a flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the fetus through the umbilical cord." Organ is defined as "a part of an organism that is typically self-contained and has a specific vital function, such as the heart or liver in humans." By definition, consuming placenta (through what ever manner) is cannibalism.
4/25/2017 04:45:39 am
This article is really an answer to my worries when someone said he will burn it. I checked the bible for the answer and find out the only place it was mentioned was somehow as punishment for sin. I sought for the right way to dispose it until I read some eat it while others encapsulate it. To me it is disgusting.
10/21/2017 04:05:42 pm
I was in a disagreement about this subject just last night. Although I tried to explain it to someone on a biblical base I couldn't not explain if like this. Thank you. I will now send this information to that person so they too can have a clear understanding.
Beyond Birth Support
10/21/2017 04:16:02 pm
I'm glad that you found it helpful!
7/28/2018 10:22:10 am
Hi. I would just like to say thank you for writing this. This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read Deuteronomy 28 and while it wasn't my first time reading it Holy Spirit spoke to me on this. With my third baby(almost 7 years ago)I did have my placenta encapsulated by my dpula. I believed in God but wasn't truly following Him. I honestly don't think I ever took any of it. I think I told myself I will save it for menopause. After a few moves it got tossed. I didn't realize it then but see now, that God kept me from taking it. It was these two verses that had me finally do some biblical research on it and to confirm what Holy Spirit was telling me all along- after all it falls under the curses. Again, thank you so much for writing this!
6/30/2020 03:45:31 am
I suggest we are more careful with what the scripture says. And probably we can also look at Ezekiel 16:4 for further study.
12/19/2020 07:04:40 pm
Thank you for this article. It is well thought out and informative. I wonder what hospitals do with placentas as I imagine the vast majority of women do not request them and allow them to be 'disposed of' by midwives.
6/21/2021 09:21:40 am
Hi! Thanks for this info. I'm currently at the beginning of my 5th pregnancy. The thing is, each time I've been pregnant, my joint paint disappears. Based on research, it could be related to hormones, cortisone or fetal cells being released into the bloodstream. To put things into perspective, I'm 27 years old and have had joint pain for 3 years. I also have scoliosis, prolapse and diastasis recti, so I'm pretty desperate for help. My theory started with using stem cells from the cord, to be treated after birth. Then placenta encapsulation came to mine as well.
Beyond Birth Support
6/21/2021 10:37:04 am
Hi Kimberly! I think it's also possible that your joint pain goes away because the body is designed to be less inflammatory during pregnancy. It might not have anything to do with the placenta or cord blood.
7/12/2021 01:49:09 pm
This is a great article I found super helpful and helped me right away in my decision making process.. appreciate the biblical perspective!!. I will not be ever eating placenta unless there there is famine! I'll get my nutrition from other foods thanks!!
8/2/2021 01:20:32 pm
Thank you for writing this. I found it when I was pregnant with my first and was questioning the placenta trend. I found it to be well written, concise and biblically based and have shared it with lots of other people. For me it was confirmation not to jump on the placenta bandwagon and God used it to help give me the peace I needed.
10/25/2021 08:37:05 pm
Thank you for this. I had a weird feeling that it doesn’t seem right to do and I’m so glad your post confirmed that.
10/27/2021 05:37:30 pm
Straight to the point. There is a purpose for everything. The purpose of the placenta is for the baby. It is man (humans) who find reasons to do things outside of the Creator's will in order to "benefit". Thank you for sharing.
11/25/2021 10:44:51 am
If we go down that road, then the definition of cannibalism is to eat other people's flesh or organs. You are eating your own placenta, so that actually leaves you out of the definition. Still sort of silly to judge it by that, but hey...
2/4/2022 11:36:17 am
Thank you so much for this article. I didn’t have peace about this even though it is becoming more common in practice. Now I feel confident in my decision.
8/10/2022 01:17:01 pm
Thank you for this article. I do have one question though...what is the purpose of burying the placenta in the earth.
9/8/2022 10:13:03 pm
I know something about cord blood can anyone help me to understand why do hospitals take cord blood?
2/27/2023 08:35:42 am
I felt the same way, intrigued with potential benefits until I could not ignore the eerie feeling about whether it was the right thing to do. Listening to my conscience I came looking for more information relating to a biblical stance and was not disappointed, I knew I wasn't comfortable with the decision to consume anything human and am glad I came across this opinion as it has helped me understand my own reservations more.
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I look at birth from the perspective that our bodies are wonderfully made, and if we really believe that and work with the birth process and nourish our bodies properly, they will function optimally, most of the time!