The placenta is thought of as an organ of the mother's body. We even use the statement "something made by the body for the body." While this is certainly true that the mother's body does make and benefit from the placenta, the placenta is not made of maternal tissue per se. The tissue of the placenta is actually a product of conception. The mother donates her chromosomes and so does the father. So the placenta actually has components of your partner in it as well. This is why many cultures revere the placenta and often refer to the placenta as the baby's twin. After all, they do arise from the same tissue.
My problem with this argument, however, is that while many cultures respect the placenta as the baby's twin, the placenta is not the same as the baby clearly. The placenta is not a baby.
Another argument I've heard is one from the Bible. I had one well meaning Christian relative ask me what the Bible had to say about it when I first started. I decided to research it.
There is one Bible verse that refers placenta consumption.
She will hide from them the afterbirth and the new baby she has borne, so that she herself can secretly eat them. She will have nothing else to eat during the siege and terrible distress that your enemy will inflict on all your towns.
Also for Bible believing Christians, it's the New Testament that we're more concerned with as we are now covered by grace than the law. The New Testament forbids a lot of things, but not consuming the placenta. In fact, all meat was now okay to consume.
Let's take a look at the definition of cannibalism. . .
Cannibalism is consuming the flesh (defined as muscle and fat, not organs) of your own kind. It refers to the flesh of other humans, not necessarily your own flesh.
So, I guess the answer to the argument lies in the fact of whether or not one considers the placenta to truly be a part of the baby or the mother. It would seem that if it is the mother's, then she could reasonably consume her own flesh and not be a cannibal. Here's where I stand, and you are free to make your own decisions. I cannot in good conscience make the connection that the placenta is the same as the baby, that they are one flesh. Yes, they both came from the same place. . . from the mother and the father. They differentiated into different tissues with different functions and purposes. One of them was given a soul; the baby. The placenta was not. The placenta is not alive. The placenta has parts of the mother and father and was grown by the mother, just as how we consider our children a part of us. It's not really flesh of the mother, though she created it. It's not really flesh of the baby because the baby moves on from it too. It's an organ that serves it's purpose and is then no longer needed, so it's not really flesh of either the mother nor the baby.
I guess this is a gray area and I'm not sure anyone can draw an exact conclusion. There will always be different opinions and my advice is always the same. If someone doesn't feel comfortable with placenta encapsulation, then don't do it. No one is twisting your arm. No one will have their feelings hurt. It's your choice and if you feel fine about it, then does it really matter that there may be a few people out there who believe you're a cannibal? Tell them, so what? Placenta encapsulation is NOT the same thing as consuming your baby and I think surely that is a point most of us can agree on!