Who Owns Your Placenta?
As I sat charting at the nurses’ station of the labor and delivery unit where I work, my co-worker came out of her patient’s room with a perplexed look on her face.
“My patient just asked if she could take her placenta home and bury it,” she said to the doctor who had just performed the delivery. “Is that allowed?”
“Of course not!” barked the doctor. “That’s ridiculous! We send all placentas down to lab, she doesn’t need it!”
The nurse nodded and turned back into the room to deliver the news to her patient as the doctor went back to scribbling orders in the chart.
I know it’s a questionable subject, but as I sat listening to this exchange, I couldn’t help but wonder – did her patient own her own placenta? Can a doctor tell her that she can’t keep a part of her own body? Does she have any sort of rights when it comes to her own cultural beliefs regarding afterbirth?
In some cultures, burying the placenta is important to new mothers and increasingly, more mothers are looking into the trend of encapsulating their placentas into post-partum vitamins, boasting the benefits of the nutrients that are touted to do everything from balancing hormones to warding off post-partum depression.
And while I wasn't particularly attached my placenta after it had done its duty (no pun intended), as a labor and delivery nurse, I am dedicated to not only respecting the wishes of my patients concerning their pregnancy and deliveries, but ensuring that they understand their rights as well.
So just what are your placental rights? Are their laws in place governing ownership over your placenta?
Turns out, it’s complicated. According to a piece by lawyer Stephen Clowney, some states actually do have laws about taking your placenta home. He referenced this handy state-by-state chart that lists all the rules and regulations pertaining to placental rights in each state.
If you are interested in exploring placenta encapsulation and would like to know if it is an option to take your placenta home, I would suggest you talk to your healthcare provider prior to delivery so arrangements can be made and any paperwork signed ahead of time. Also, be prepared for the possibility of unforeseen complications (like a postpartum hemorrhage or a retained placental fragment) that might prevent you from being able to take the placenta home.
What do you think? Should women be allowed to take their placentas home?
Image via iStock