A case published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report highlights a possible danger associated with placenta capsule ingestion by postpartum women. 

The case involved an infant who was initially treated for early-onset, penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS) bacteremia shortly after birth. Five days after completing treatment (11-day course of ampicillin 200mg/kg/day), the infant was brought to the emergency department of another hospital where a blood culture showed penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-sensitive GBS. During this second hospital admission, clinicians were notified that the mother had requested the release of her placenta to a company that would encapsulate it for ingestion; she began consuming the encapsulated placenta three days after the infant’s birth. 

The mother was instructed by clinicians to stop taking the capsules. A sample of the capsules was then cultured and penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-sensitive GBS was identified. While the clinicians could not rule out the possibility of transmission from a colonized household member, their final diagnosis was late-onset GBS disease attributable to high maternal colonization secondary to consumption of GBS-infected placental tissue. The infant was treated with ampicillin 300mg/kg/day for 14 days and gentamicin 3mg/kg/day for the first 6 days and then discharged. 

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While placenta ingestion has been promoted for its physical and psychological benefits, the evidence behind these claims is lacking, and currently no standards exist for processing placenta for consumption. In this case, heating and the encapsulation process did not eradicate the pathogens. While the company that processed the placenta asked about pre-existing infections (ie, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, and Lyme disease), they did not inquire about intra- or postpartum infections. 

“In cases of maternal GBS colonization, chorioamnionitis, or early-onset neonatal GBS infection, ingestion of capsules containing contaminated placenta could heighten maternal colonization, thereby increasing an infant’s risk for late-onset neonatal GBS infection,” said the authors. They concluded by stating that mothers interested in placenta encapsulation should be educated about the potential risks and that in cases of late-onset GBS infection, clinicians should ask about a history of placenta consumption.

For more information visit CDC.gov.