It was one thing to have to abruptly behold January Jones as “Fat Betty” on the latest season of Mad Men, but well before that the infamous portrayal of Mad Men’s Mrs. Draper really turned heads when she announced publicly that she consumed capsules of her own ground up placenta after giving birth. The actress says the placenta capsules hold tremendous health benefits for hers and her newborn child. Now, why would new moms eat their placentas?

Even the most alternative-minded experts, such as Dr. Andrew Weil MD, recently slammed the placenta-eating movement on Facebook and on his own web site, maintaining that the practice is nothing but a Hollywood trend, without a shred of actual evidence. Some women expressed disappointment with Dr. Weil’s position on Facebook, noting that they had done this and found it beneficial or planned to do it.  Many commenters called the practice “disgusting,” “gross,” and “bizarre.”

However new mothers across the country are describing a different experience, and today January Jones is one of many women who practice placentophagy, with the belief that the placenta—as the chief transporter of oxygen, blood and nutrients from the mother to the baby—is some kind of optimal postpartum Superfood. (Placentophagy is the term for mammals eating the placenta of their newly born.)

Some have even referred to the placenta as The Tree of Life, due to its branchy structure and the built-in life force it seems to carry; and many new companies now offer services to process a new mom’s placenta after she’s given birth. They simplify the whole process by picking up the placenta at the hospital, and then steaming, drying and putting it into capsules—and its back with mom in a just a few days. But what is the benefit of consuming one’s placenta and really, why would anyone want to do it?

We checked in with Ahri Golden, Berkley, California mom and staunch advocate of placenta-eating post-partum, who gave us the dish on this practice.

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Mamiverse: In your view, what is the benefit of consuming one’s own placenta? Is there a benefit for mom? For kids? For how long does one eat it?
Golden: I found that eating my placenta curbed intense emotional swings and replaced many nutrients lost in birth. I also found that it increased my milk production and slowed down my bleeding following birth.

I learned that the placenta has very high levels of some vitamins like B6. This is the one that helps out with postpartum depression. CRH, a corticotrophin-releasing hormone, normally secreted by the hypothalamus, is well known to be a stress-reducer. And having two kids was INTENSE, so I think eating my placenta helped me even out my moods. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes high levels of CRH into the blood and so after birth, we have much lower than average levels of this hormone. This can cause a raging depletion. Actually, when so much CRH is produced during the last weeks of pregnancy, the hypothalamus shuts down production. After the birth, the hypothalamus hasn’t yet been stimulated and begins to compensate for the low levels of CRH.

Prostaglandin, contained in the placenta in high levels, stimulates the shrinking of the uterus. It basically cleans the uterus out. It also has small amounts of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces birth stress, and brings on the contraction of the mammary cells so they produce milk.

Mamiverse: How long after birth is the placenta “good”?
Golden: I had mine dried and encapsulated. If stored in the freezer, they are good for mine and my daughter’s entire lifetime!

Mamiverse: What are the various ways one can ingest?
Golden: Raw might be too much for most people, but also perfectly viable are capsules, cooked in stews or cut and seasoned; dried, ground and in a shake.

Mamiverse: Who can make placenta pills? Can one make their own, or should you have them made by a pro?
Golden: You can certainly do it yourself however, it is labor intensive and something most new moms wouldn’t want to or have time to do. It is often done by a partner, close friend, doula or midwife.

Mamiverse: What’s the dosage?
Golden: Every time I feel sick, I  take 3 capsules per day. I know a woman who consumed the entire placenta just after birth. It really varies.

For more information visit PlacentaBenefits.info.