Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Daniel C. Benyshek

Second Committee Member

Alyssa N. Crittenden

Third Committee Member

Peter B. Gray

Fourth Committee Member

James W. Navalta

Number of Pages



Recently, human maternal placenta ingestion, known as placentophagy, has emerged as a rare but growing practice among postpartum mothers in industrialized societies, and is currently found in both home birth and hospital birth settings. The practice is purported to result in certain health benefits for postpartum mothers, some of which could be related to the iron content in full-term placenta (e.g., increased energy and an improved and more rapid postpartum recovery, among others). The aim of this research project was to investigate the effect of encapsulated placentophagy on maternal postpartum iron status via a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study (n=28). The majority of participants were Caucasian (79%), with at least some college education (88.7%), and married or in a domestic partnership (87%). Maternal iron status of women in the placenta supplement group (n=12), the placebo group (n=16), and an additional iron-supplement comparison group (n=3) was measured via hemoglobin, transferrin, and ferritin taken from blood samples at four time points; the 36th week of pregnancy, within 72 hours of parturition, between days five and seven postpartum, and during week three postpartum. All participants also completed a Willet Food Frequency Questionnaire in order to assess dietary iron intake during the study period. Results reveal no statistically significant differences in the maternal iron status of women in the placenta supplement and placebo (beef or vegetarian supplements) groups. While the small sample size of the additional (over-the-counter) oral iron supplement group did not allow for statistical comparison with the placenta supplement and placebo groups, maternal iron status of these participants varied only slightly from those of placenta supplement and placebo group participants. The current study suggests that encapsulated placenta supplementation neither significantly improves, nor impairs postpartum maternal iron status for women consuming at least adequate amounts of dietary iron.


iron; placebo; placenta; Placentophagy; postpartum


Biological and Physical Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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