A CDC report has warned health care professionals and new mothers about infection risks associated with placenta consumption—a rare but reportedly growing practice in the United States.
The caution stems from a case in Oregon in which a newborn with signs of respiratory distress was diagnosed as having penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate group B Streptococcus agalactiae (GBS). Maternal GBS screening test results were negative; the infant was discharged after an 11-day course of ampicillin.
Five days later, the infant became irritable and was admitted to a second hospital. A blood culture again showed penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate GBS. The mother’s breast milk was GBS negative and further testing did not reveal a source of the infant’s infection.
However, a physician at the hospital where the woman gave birth notified her treating physician at the second hospital that she had asked to keep her placenta when the infant was born. Placenta consumption has been promoted as a mood or energy booster and postpartum depression preventive but the report’s authors said evidence to support those claims is lacking.
The mother told her physician that she had registered with a company that processes placentas into capsules that can be taken like vitamins. She was taking 2 capsules 3 times a day. A sample sent for testing showed the capsules contained penicillin-sensitive, clindamycin-intermediate GBS that was indistinguishable from the GBS cultured from the infant’s blood. The report’s authors attributed the baby’s infection to “high maternal colonization secondary to consumption of GBS-infected placental tissue.”
They advised that clinicians “inquire about a history of placenta ingestion in cases of late-onset GBS infection” and educate mothers about the potential risks.