January Jones credits eating her own placenta, along with a healthy diet and vitamins, to helping her get back to work on the hit series, "Mad Men," in a matter of weeks.
She told People.com, "Your placenta gets dehydrated and made into vitamins. It's something I was very hesitant about, but we're the only mammals who don't ingest our own placentas."
"It's not witch-crafty or anything," said Jones, who plays Betty on the TV show. "I suggest it to all moms."
In some cultures, it is commonplace to consume the afterbirth. While placenta encapsulation is not FDA-approved in the U.S., the practice has become more popular as midwifery and home births continue to rise in this country.
Research has shown that the afterbirth is indeed a nutrient-packed pouch, and it has been touted as a way to prevent post-partum depression and promote a fast recovery after pregnancy. There is no hard evidence that humans benefit from consuming it, though.
"There is certainly a potential medicinal use," Dr. David Katz, founder of the Yale Prevention Center, said of placentas last year. "This is a time-honored cultural practice of eating the placenta. It is nutrient-rich and a source of hormones."
Along with the growing popularity of consuming one's placenta, new companies have seen the demand and offer services to process a woman's afterbirth. Many companies will pick up the new mom's placenta from the hospital, then steam it, dry it and encapsulate it before returning it to the mom in a few days time. Other reports show that some people make a dish that would normally contain meat, like stew or lasagna, then replace the meat with placenta.
Some experts say the up-and-coming industry is a scam, though, particularly when companies tout the afterbirth as a means to prevent post-partum depression. At its worst, post-partum depression can lead to suicide. Most new mothers will experience the baby blues, feelings of sadness caused by hormone changes and sleep deprivation.
In either case, Dr. Lauren F. Streicher, clinical instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Medical School, said women don't need to consume their afterbirth to get through the sadness. Streicher said it's simply irresponsible and dangerous to tout the pills as a cure for post-partum depression Women should seek medical help if they experience post-partum depression.
As for the milder baby blues, "[They] don't need this stuff,'" she said last year. "It's going to go away on its own."