Anderson Cooper & Dr. Sanjay Gupta On Postpartum Depression & Placentas

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Ho ho. Ha ha ha.  Laugh laugh.  Giggle.

Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent nearly four light-hearted minutes on the new talk show Anderson talking about new mothers eating their placentas.  Dr. Gupta said, with all the gravitas in the world, “people say” they eat it to prevent postpartum depression.

People say? Who are those people?

It is an interesting topic, I grant you.  Yet, I would have hoped that Dr. Gupta could have perhaps discussed the research more, or lack thereof.  I would have hoped that two people with such an enormous audience could have spent perhaps 30 SECONDS of those 4 minutes talking about how serious postpartum depression is, and what the other treatments for postpartum depression might be, especially since this one is not considered by many experts to be an effective treatment for PPD.  Maybe I missed it.  Maybe it was in a part of the show I didn’t see on this clip.

Here’s what Dr. Marlene Freeman, a reproductive psychiatrist and expert on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders from Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health said here on Postpartum Progress about consuming the placenta to prevent postpartum depression:

“From an evidence-based perspective, even with a viewpoint open to complementary and alternative therapies, this doesn’t pass the test for women with postpartum illness or at risk for postpartum illness. My concern with this and other unsubstantiated claims about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments is that ‘natural’ is often assumed safe and seen as advantageous over more rigorously tested treatments. At worst, a woman with postpartum illness or at risk for it might forego a comprehensive assessment (that she deserves to have), a full menu of options for treatment (that could include more proven CAM treatment options) and careful monitoring of her symptoms.”

Here’s what Pec Indman, author, therapist and long-time international advocation for women with postpartum depression said in an interview on Kate Kripke’s blog:

“Although there has not been one study (not even poorly done) about the effects in humans on placental ingestion, the claims are that it prevents the blues and PPD … which contributes the spread of misinformation about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  There is no evidence that the freeze drying processing of placental tissues maintains the integrity of the hormones, protein, and iron.  There is no evidence about any part of this process to warrant a recommendation.”

I know.  I’m being a bit of a hard-ass.  But seriously.  Two dudes laughing about this and talking about it without ever asking questions or looking at both sides — or discussing the fact that there’s no harm in trying it, and if it works great, but if it doesn’t here’s what you need to do because postpartum depression is a serious illness — STICKS IN MY CRAW.

If you are a believer in consuming your placenta to prevent postpartum depression, that’s cool.  If it worked for you, or you believe it worked for you, or you are someone who believe it works for the people with whom you work, that’s cool.  Really.  I just haven’t seen much in the way of medical evidence, and I want to be sure that women who try it know that if it doesn’t work for them there are other things they can and should do to get help.

And Mr. Cooper and Dr. Gupta?  I love you guys, really I do, but a million women suffer PPD each year.  Eighty-five percent of them never get the help they need and deserve. I’d love it if you could mention that.

Ladies, if you agree, you can let @andersoncooper and @sanjayguptacnn know that postpartum depression is serious on Twitter.

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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Comments

  1. um….WOW. just wow.

  2. I hope to see this post get elevated in the right hands so there can be an update on an upcoming show pointing out these specifics.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      In order to get it to the right hands, lots more people are going to need to retweet it, like it on Facebook, etc. I leave it to my readers to do that if they feel strongly about it.

  3. Horrible. I would have expected more from Dr. Gupta. I love them both, but they should have done a better job talking about the seriousness of postpartum, instead of giggling through most of it. I am so disappointed.

  4. The ignorance surrounding PPD astounds me. These two people just added to the ignorance. Not cool Anderson and Sanjay.

  5. I'm tweeting about it. Have put it out to the #PPDChat army. Because this? Is inexcusable. It's even mentioned directly to Anderson by the audience member he interviews and he COMPLETELY ignores it.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      What bothers me most:

      1) Sanjay is a physician. He should know better.

      2) Anderson has been through the suicide of his brother. I know he knows better.

      They took a wonderful opportunity to talk about such an important topic to hundreds of thousands of new mothers and ended up spending 4 minutes joking about an unproven treatment.

      • I agree whole-heartedly. The audience member Anderson interviews even brings it up and Anderson cuts her off before she can talk about her experience. He also misses an opportunity there to allow a new mom to share.

        I plan on crashing Anderson's live UStream on Monday at 1230p to ask why he missed such an opportunity to talk about Postpartum Depression. Inexcusable behavior from both of them.

        If anyone would like to join me, they can find the information for the livestream at the @Anderson twitter account.

  6. I am unbelievably floored. Goosebumps at…wow, not cool. Like Lauren said, inexcusable.

  7. This is very bothersome to me as well. As a mother who went through PPD with anxiety twice, I do not appreciate the "laughing" it up aspect that it took on Anderson's show. This is a serious topic and needs to be addressed properly. I will letting Anderson Cooper and Dr. Gupta know my thoughts. Thanks for posting Katherine.

  8. perhaps i'm mistaken, & am completely open to a placenta eating mother who thought it helped her through PPD to correct me if i'm wrong, but it how on earth would eating your child's life source HELP with PPD?! to me, it seems dominating and destructive. i am completely aware of animals in the wild following this, but humans have evolution behind them (and sometimes common sense) to think differently.

    the biggest issue is addressing the need for mothers to feel open about asking for help with their PPD, not a giggle fest surrounding things men do not understand.

    • "but humans have evolution behind them (and sometimes common sense) to think differently."

      You seem to be overlooking that there could be a physiological basis for ingesting the placenta. And even if it doesn't help, what does it hurt? If a mother ingests the placenta and doesn't end up with PPD we don't know whether the placenta did its work. If a mother ingests the placenta and does end up with PPD, we don't know if the placenta made the PPD less severe, or shorter in duration. It's like an innoculation, you don't know if you ever actually NEED (would you have gotten measles if you didn't have the vaccine?), but you usually get the shot to for the sake of being prudent. Having been through a hellish bout of PTSD/PPD I would probably eat just about anything if I thought it would help.

      • Katherine Stone says:

        If it doesn't hurt anything (and I'm not sure whether they know enough about that yet or not), then I don't see any harm in trying it either. What I worry about is talking about it as though it definitely works, when we don't know that it does for everyone.

        • No we don't. And I'm certainly not advocating placenta consumption as a sole means of avoiding or treating any PMD. But to the extent that it *might* help, I say you should be able do it without fear of judgment because the alternative is far worse.

  9. Katherine Stone says:

    As I watched it, I just couldn't help but feel that these guys don't know the first thing about postpartum depression. They are so completely far removed it — from any idea of how many women are affected, from how many never get treated, from how this affects mothers and children over the long term, from the fact that mothers kill themselves over this illness — that they can just sit there and laugh about eating placentas. Anyone who knew anything wouldn't spend 4 minutes giggling without ever saying one serious phrase about the subject.

  10. After a LOT of research, I was going to have my son's placenta encapsulated after he was born (that is where it is freeze-dried, made into powder and then put into capsules for the mother to ingest). But since his birth turned into an emergency, they didn't keep it for me. I was devastated because I was hoping that the hormones in the placenta would prevent PPD (I have a history of depression). Unfortunately, I ended up with a nasty case of PPD, and I always wonder what would have been had I had the chance to "eat" the placenta. My family thought I was insane and made fun of the idea on a regular basis – I really didn't care. I had the mind-set that if I believed that it worked, it might just work. Mind over matter, I guess.

    I think it sucks that two people who will never experience PPD chose to mock something they know nothing about.

      • Katherine Stone says:

        Julie, I don't think it's insane that you considered trying it. Many people do. Lots of women are looking for good and effective ways to prevent postpartum depression. I believe we need to spend much more time, effort and money looking at the best ways to treat or even prevent PPD.

        – K

    • Sanjay actually did make mainly serious comments about the practice of using placenta to combat PPD. He made a groaner of a pun, but that's about it.

    • Julie: The same exact thing happened to me, except when my birth-center birth turned urgent hospital c-section occurred, I was told I wasn't "allowed" to have the placenta. I was devestated because I had planned on encapsulating as well. And to this day I wonder if it could have at least helped to lessen the severity of my PTSD/PPD.

  11. The show wasn't about PPD. It was about conjoined twins. This was a couple minute aside inspired by an article about placenta eating. Anderson doesn't have a female partner, any kids, a uterus or a medical degree so he is probably not well suited to an in depth, sensitive, knowledgeable exploration of PPD or particularly gripped by the topic.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      Just because he isn't well-suited doesn't mean that if the topic is brought up he shouldn't be able to discuss it, or have his expert (in this case, Dr. Gupta) discuss it, in a meaningful way.

  12. Anderson Cooper, had a wonderfully AMAZING opportunity to stop and ask Dr.Gupta what is pospartum depression? Is there medical facts to back up the claims of eating the placenta?

    It was a wonderful opportunity to educate women. Wonderful. But they wasted it on how to cook it? Like WTF?

    I am but one tiny voice in this large blogsphere and here is Anderson Cooper with a huge platform that reaches hundreds of homes and he blew it.

    • Dr. Gupta told Cooper what the support is for eating placenta when he was asked why one would do it. It hasn't been well studied in humans but there are lots of nutrients and hormones in the placenta that could be helpful to restoring balance and there are women who find it affirming.

      • Katherine Stone says:

        Except then the rest of the discussion was for it's use to prevent PPD. And he didn't specifically discuss whether it was proven to prevent PPD. Maybe someday there will be more research and we'll find there are positive effects, but as of now the medical research experts I know say there's no good data to support that.

  13. What everybody else said. i'm kinda speechless by this. wow. :(

  14. So upsetting. Maybe they can do a follow up or something.

    I sent tweets, re-tweeted this to my list, and shared on FB as well.

    Hoping somebody hears us screaming for some recognition of the issues at hand.

  15. I wonder… if Gloria Vanderbilt convinced her then oldest son (Carter – Anderson Cooper's older brother) to eat his placenta, would he have developed a prescription-induced psychosis (as she claims the root-cause to be)? Harsh, I know, and I'm stooping really low, here. But I'm floored. I do–did–respect Cooper Anderson and valued his caliber, life-career, and amazing achievements (regardless of his "royal family" history—because I followed him long before somebody told me of who his family was/is). And Dr. Gupta, a physician! Wow! But now I'm quite stupefied…like REALLY? Has celebredome reduced their caliber?

  16. I sure hope the Placentophagy research team at University of Nevada is finally able to produce evidence that eating placenta is either effective or not. The only thing about this entire situation that totally baffles me is that the Placenta Benefits website has a "research" section that cites several articles that have nothing (NOTHING) to do with placentophagia in humans for the purpose of PPD prevention.

    It's a total shame. I am certainly not saying that natural and holistic treatment modalities are a sham—they can work wonders for mild symptoms. I just think we do a disservice to suffering women by making claims that an unproven treatment will work for her. We don't want to contribute to women losing hope during such a fragile time!

  17. Key: “if you BELIEVE it worked for you” (emphasis mine).

Trackbacks

  1. Share! Tell the Media to Do Better! « says:

    [...] A new blog entry on one of my favorite Postpartum Depression blogs/resources has caught my eye today, and I hope everyone will share it.  Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress wrote about a recent segment on Anderson Cooper’s newest daytime show.  Please follow this link, and read it, share it:  Anderson Cooper & Dr. Sanjay Gupta On Placentas & Postpartum Depression. [...]