Placentophagy - A Christian Perspective

Deuteronomy 28:56-57 The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter,  and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in your towns.
 
My wife and I just had our seventh child and the miracle of life still amazes me.  As we were preparing for the baby, we heard about a practiced called placentophagy which is the practice of consuming the placenta after the birth of a baby.  some people grill it and others grind it up and consume it in pill form.  I heard about the practice on social media by a Christian who said there were good health benefits to doing it. 
Because I had heard about this from a Christian, I thought it would be helpful to research.  I looked into its origins, studies from medical professionals and more importantly what if anything the Bible has to say about it before deciding that this isn’t something that I believe Christians should give credence too.
The purpose of this article is not to condemn you if you have practiced this in the past but simply to encourage you to apply scripture to every area of life and to think like Christians when you evaluate various new practices in “medicine.”  Whether its thinking through the issue of burial and cremation, birth control or through this issue we want to make sure we have a biblically informed opinion and practice.
As far as my research, most sources say that the practice of consuming the placenta is a fairly new concept.  It was not practiced in the west until the 1970s.  Most doctors and researchers  are very suspicious of the practice saying that there is no research which proves any benefits from it. 
As far as looking for the historical practice of it, in a 1979 volume of the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, William Ober's article "Notes on Placentophagy" speaks about the possibility that certain ancient cultures that practiced human sacrifice may also have practiced human placentophagy, including Egyptians, Tasians, Badarians, Amrateans, Gerzeans, Semainians.  In Brazil, a cannibalistic tribe had the practice of consuming the afterbirth.  In Jamaica, bits of placental membranes were put into an infant's tea to prevent convulsions caused by ghosts. Traditional Gullah medicine dictates that when a baby is born with a caul, with amniotic membranes over the face at birth, the placenta is made into a tea and then consumed by the child to "prevent them from seeing spirits that would otherwise haunt them.” These older practices while few in number were often tied to the occult and very superstitious. The most recent version of the practice is said to have come from Chinese mystical practices. Chinese folk medicine is often intertwined with animalistic spiritual beliefs.    
Some supporters have pointed to the fact that many mammals eat their own afterbirth.  Dogs, cats, and other animals are known to eat it immediately after giving birth.  Of course, mammals also eat a lot of other things that we would not consider eating.  There is even a bible verse about a dog returning to eat its own vomit.  I do not see that being a practice taken up in any online blogs.   
The history of placentophay is one often tied to superstitious spiritual practices.   It does not any scientific research backing up its claims.  But the most important question is what does the bible teach regarding this practice or other alternative medicines?
Surprisingly, the Bible does specifically mention this practice in Deuteronomy 28 as part of the covenantal curses that would be poured out on Israel if they did not keep the covenant.  God told the people of Israel that He would punish them by sending an invading army to take over the land.  As part of this invasion, the people would experience famine and suffering like they had never known.  They would be so famished that starving women would even eat their afterbirth.  When the reader sees this in the text, he is shocked.  Things have gotten so bad that little delicate women have turned cannibalistic.  Again, this is meant to shock the reader with a strong warning to the people of Israel.   This passage doesn’t give an explicit command regarding consuming the placenta but the thrust of the passage is that it was not considered a good or normal thing for women to do.   
To recap, the modern practice is very new but can trace its origins to Chinese mystical medicine. When it has been practiced in the past, it was by cannibalistic tribes or with a lot of superstition.  The claims to all its benefits have not been verified by research.  And in the Bible, the sole mention of this is in the context of a curse.  It is also interesting to note that this practice was unheard of in the Christian west until very recently. 
Is this enough for me to lay down a command against the practice? No but I think you need to consider the above things as you are thinking about the practice.  Does it accord with the Christian theology of the body?  Our bodies are gifts from God and Christians have always been against consuming body parts.
Christians also believe in sound scientific principles. Just because our culture has made an idol out of “science” doesn’t mean we should run hard into the opposite direction. There are all kinds of blogs put up by people with very little knowledge making bold claims about this and other “natural” practices. These claims lack any real scientific basis.  They are in essence faith claims. 
The scientific process of hypothesis, testing, observation, and synthesis is one founded on God’s truth.  Yes, sinners are the ones who operate the scientific process.  They are flawed and often biased.  Yet, even unbelievers still bear some part of the image of God.  We ought not be so skeptical of doctors and hospitals that we fall in with those who make wild claims.  Yes, doctors, hospitals, nurses, and medical experts get things wrong.  Covid has taught us this.  And yet Covid should also teach us that they aren’t always wrong nor is every person who speaks contrary to the established position our friend.
At some point, we have to live by faith in God- the God who created us and placed us in the exact time in history and location that He intended for us.  We have to have faith in God who establishes authorities for our own good.  This doesn’t mean don’t be wise.  It doesn’t mean trust every single thing that some so called expert says.  Yet, it also means not being so skeptical that we allow ourselves to get involved in medical practices that come from pagan religions.  
The Bible forbids witchcraft.  And witchcraft in the time of scripture was the occultic practice of using potions, spells, cannibalism, and ceremonies to ward off spirits in order to improve one’s health or wealth. Some of the things that pass as alternative medicines today are nothing more than modernized witchcraft.  
Lastly, as you talk about this practice or other new fads (I don’t mean this to be derogatory), we ought to make sure to maintain the peace and purity of the church.  Let everyone be convinced in their conscience but make sure you are evangelists for the gospel and not necessarily evangelists for other causes.  If you get more excited about organic non-gmo natural remedies than you do the gospel and you share more about these things than you do about Christ, you are missing the mark.
Again, its not my goal to condemn those who have practiced this in the past but I do hope to be an encouragement to all moving forward to consider these practices in light of God’s word and Christian thinking.  

placentophagy
Posted in

No Comments


Recent

Archive

Categories

Tags