Should Christian Mothers Eat Their Placentas?

Pots

This is probably going to be one of the weirdest things I’ll ever have to defend on this blog.

God has blessed my wife and me with the conception of our first child. Tessa is almost seven months pregnant; God-willing she will deliver in mid-May.

We will be saving her placenta, and we plan on eventually eating it.

Perhaps this sounds weird or disgusting to you? If so, that’s fine. You may dispose of yours however you please. But Tessa and I would like to take advantage of the many health benefits the placenta has to offer.

That said, a dear friend and sister in Christ advised us that this may not be a biblical thing to do. We were provided with a link to the article, “Eating the Placenta: A Christian Worldview Perspective.” I would encourage the reader to go through that article before continuing with mine.

Before I get into critiquing this, let me say that I know our friend is sincerely seeking to help us. And while I don’t personally know the author of the article, I will assume that her motives are pure as well. So please do not think I am attacking either our friend or this author.

However, we are commanded to “examine all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Upon doing so, I found the article itself to be composed of unsound proof-texting and the worst kind of legalism. While the author claims, “This post is not designed to tell you what to do,” it is nevertheless set up in such a way as to impose guilt upon those who believe otherwise and to accuse them of not being “Christ-honoring, Bible-believing Christians.”

I currently have many Christian friends who are pregnant, and they may also consider eating their placentas. I therefore feel it necessary to refute these unbiblical arguments and remove this unnecessary stumbling block.

Let’s examine a few of the author’s claims.

Claim: The logic behind eating placentas is the same logic behind embryonic stem cell research.

Many human organs contain nutrients that would be beneficial if consumed. It doesn’t follow that we should consume human flesh. This is a slippery slope with moral consequences. It is the exact same pragmatic argument used by those who believe it is morally advisable to use fetal stem cells for the purpose of discovering medical solutions to serious diseases.

This is a completely unfair correlation. Embryonic stem cell research is wrong because it requires the destruction of human life. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with stem cell research that uses adult stem cells.

The placenta is not a human life. Eating the placenta does not involve taking a human life. There is no similarity whatsoever between this and embryonic stem cell research.

Claim: Eating a human placenta is cannibalism.

The definition of cannibalism is: the eating of human flesh by a human being. The placenta is human flesh, and as such, should not be consumed. Our Creator’s words on the issue of cannibalism: Jer. 19:9; Lev. 26:29; Micah 3:3. Our Creator’s words on the issue of consuming blood in Gen. 9:4, Lev. 17:11, Lev. 17:14, and Deut. 12:23.

First, we must consider why cannibalism is biblically wrong. Cannibalism is wrong for the same reason that embryonic stem cell research is wrong—both require the taking of human life, which is murder.

However, there is nothing biblically wrong with eating human flesh as long as no human life is taken in the process. Let’s say a limb needed to be amputated and you wanted to eat it. There would be nothing unbiblical about that. It may be weird, but it is not wrong.

The human body, according to God, is dust (Genesis 3:19). The only thing that makes human flesh different from animal flesh is the fact that it houses a human soul. Man’s soul—not his body—is made in the image of God. Once the soul departs, the body becomes nothing more than dust; it no longer retains the image of God. At that point, there is no difference at all between human flesh and animal flesh.

The proof-texts the author used against cannibalism are as follows:

“‘“I will reduce the people of this city to desperate straits during the siege imposed on it by their enemies who are seeking to kill them. I will make them so desperate that they will eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters and the flesh of one another.”’” (Jeremiah 19:9, NET)

“‘You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.’” (Leviticus 26:29, NET)

“You devour my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin,
and crush their bones.
You chop them up like flesh in a pot—
like meat in a kettle.” (Micah 3:3, NET)

The first two verses (Jeremiah 19:9 and Leviticus 26:29) refer to times of God’s judgment on the people. In both cases, the punishment imposed was that they would be placed under siege by foreign nations. In this condition, they would run out of food. Their hunger would become so great that they would eat one another to survive. Again, the sin there is murder, not the consumption of flesh.

The last verse (Micah 3:3) is an extreme analogy used to describe the way the leaders were mistreating the people. It does not mean they were literally eating them. But even if it did, the sin itself would still be murder.

The author next listed four verses that speak against consuming blood.

“But you must not eat meat with its life (that is, its blood) in it.” (Genesis 9:4, NET)

“‘For the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.’” (Leviticus 17:11, NET)

“‘For the life of all flesh is its blood. So I have said to the Israelites: You must not eat the blood of any living thing because the life of every living thing is its blood—all who eat it will be cut off.’” (Leviticus 17:14, NET)

However, by no means eat the blood, for the blood is life itself—you must not eat the life with the meat! (Deuteronomy 12:23, NET)

In this case, I agree with the author that we should not drink blood—whether human blood or animal blood. I would also add a particularly important passage, where the apostles and elders (guided by the Holy Spirit) decided that this was one of the few Old Covenant rules that still applied under the New Covenant.

For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:28–29, NET)

Note carefully what they wrote. They did not want to “place any greater burden” on people by adding unnecessary rules. Those who say we cannot eat a placenta are in fact adding such a rule. Requiring another believer to follow your personal convictions is legalism.

As for equating the eating of a placenta with the consumption of blood, this simply does not follow. I do not advocate picking up a placenta as soon as it is birthed and eating it raw, nor do I know of any Christian who recommends this. I would advise cooking or dehydrating your placentas before eating them.

Claim: Eating the placenta is a pantheistic practice with no precedent in the Bible.

If it really is something that God designed not only for the preservation of the baby within the womb, for also for the health of the mother after giving birth, why is there absolutely no reference or recommendation in His Word? There is no Biblical precedent for placentophagy.

On the other hand, this practice is firmly rooted and widely practiced within pantheistic religions that deny the Creator God of the Bible and worship nature. If we desire to live consistent with a Christian worldview, this should give us reason to pause.

There are two wrong assumptions here.

The first wrong assumption is that Christians should avoid something simply because pantheists do it. This is an association fallacy. Pantheistic practices are only wrong when they violate clear principles or commands from Scripture.

The second wrong assumption is that Christians need a precedent from the Bible. There are all manner of things we do that have no precedent in the Bible. That does not make any of them wrong.

For example, the Bible gives no precedent for any of the modern technologies we enjoy. If this author is to be consistent, she needs stop riding in cars, talking on the phone, using a refrigerator, and even posting on her blog, because the Bible never mentions any of these things.

God has given us certain clear commands, and we must follow them. But for most areas of life, he has given us general principles along with the indwelling influence of the Holy Spirit, and he allows us to develop our own convictions as we seek to please him.

If a woman is convicted against eating a placenta, I would urge her to follow her conviction and abstain from eating it. However, it is wrong to force your personal convictions on other believers when there is no clear biblical command.

The Bible in fact does not give a precedent for eating the placenta—either for or against it. Therefore, it is up to individual believers to personally seek God’s will on this matter.

Claim: The logic behind eating placentas is the same logic behind having abortions.

While many women have felt that consuming their baby’s placenta has helped them avoid postpartum depression, it doesn’t follow that it is an ethical solution to that very real problem. That same argument is used by those who believe in a “woman’s right to choose” abortion. Abortion enables women to avoid not only postpartum depression, but the hardships, responsibilities, and challenges that come with raising a child or giving a child up for adoption.

By now the reader can probably guess my response to this claim, as it is essentially the same claim the author made earlier about embryonic stem cell research. Abortion (like stem cell research) is wrong because it takes a human life.

A placenta is not a human life. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with eating it.

Claim: Eating the placenta is not the only option available to women.

God, in His wisdom and goodness, has provided for our physical needs after birth. In fact, in our particular place and time in history, we have access to the widest variety of the best, whole super-foods and nutritional supplements known in the history of mankind.

We also have science and medicine on our side. There are many women who have found physical help by way of nutrition as well as hormonal therapy for postpartum depression. The ancient, eastern practice of eating your child’s placenta is not the only solution available to women today.

I’ll grant that it’s not the only available option. I don’t know of anyone who claims that it is. However, I do personally believe that it’s one of the very best and most natural options.

The placenta is an organ that the mother’s body made specifically to nurture her child. Once that role is completed, it is only right to claim some of that nutrition back. Furthermore, I would much prefer that my wife use something her own body made than an artificial drug with who-knows-what in it.

But on this point, the author has betrayed her own position. She repeatedly claims that we need a biblical precedent, yet there is no biblical precedent for modern medicines either.

Conclusion

The author stated the following near the end of her article:

If you are a Christian, you are not forced to live consistent with a Christian worldview. In fact, most do not. But then have enough courage and integrity to be honest about that with yourself and others. If, on the other hand, you desire to live consistent with a Christian worldview, and you still want to eat your child’s placenta, then you’ll need to make a Biblical, Christian worldview case for doing so. At the very least, you will need the following to make your case:

1. Biblical precedence or principle for consuming raw, human flesh.

2. Historical evidence of the Church of Jesus Christ practicing and promoting this based on the above precedence.

If you are unable to do that, then you are left with your own autonomous choice, apart from God.

I will practice placentophagy because…

Again, we do not need a biblical precedent to do anything, nor do we need a precedent from church history. But we also are not left to make an autonomous choice apart from God. In making such an argument, this author must completely ignore the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit inside every believer.

To answer the author’s question, I will practice placentophagy because it is a healthy and natural use for the organ my wife is growing, because it in no way violates any command or principle given in Scripture, and because my wife and I have a clear conscience before God in doing so.

If the Holy Spirit has convicted you otherwise, then I would not advise doing so yourself.

“Don’t you understand that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him?” (Mark 7:18, NET)

Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days—these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ! (Colossians 2:16–17, NET)