Who Owns Your Placenta?

birth baby

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. 

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What do you think? Should women be allowed to take their placentas home? 

Image via iStock

What do you think?

Who Owns Your Placenta?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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10 comments

  1. Dr says:

    Clearly, Placenta is Property of the Parents (!!!) and the law (in such cases) is to be BROKEN/FIXED. There is international stem cells society (www.isscr.org), where everyday more and more benefits are PROVING to improve and save lives of such Babies, using their OWN stem cells from placenta!!! However, there are countries, where Placenta is still considered as “waste”, e.g. a Dad (for its first time) was held 3months in prison, for wanting its Placenta in Bulgaria/Sofia, and was wrongly accused that there has been a HIT from the Dad to the Doctor, that deliver his baby (the NEWs named the dad as “Vlado Placentata”), because the Doctor refused to give him the Placenta! Clearly there is crossing the LINE, where the hospital clearly DONT help people, BUT the opposite, as this person has NOT seen his child after that, and because of the NEWs, and court fears, the kid is NOW still with NO dad!!!

  2. Leah says:

    My ob ask in the last few weeks of both my pregnancies if I had any specific wishes or desires for the after birth, and after my 41st week with my first she did tell me, even though I had no wishes she did tell me the likelihood of me having a ‘nice’ placenta was probably not good. I think must drs will try to assist as long as they know ahead of time, and can, some placenta have been over used…

  3. lezayala says:

    Well, I don’t see the nescesity to take the placenta home.

  4. Becky says:

    I’ve taken mine home for 2 pregnancies and intend to with the one I am pregnant with now. I bury it with a plant (like Rose bushes).

  5. smooty54 says:

    So is this saying that the placenta could be used later for your own health purposes?

  6. moon419 says:

    A great way to solve the issue at hand is to get someone experienced with home birthing and do it at home…that way, no one can tell you that you can’t keep it..

  7. TwitchyFox says:

    its a part of a persons body, it should be illegal to keep them from having it

  8. There is a practice not many know about where as long as the birthing process is complication free, you can leave the placenta attached to the baby and have a special bag for it and learn to care for it to prevent smelling etc so the baby can have time to absorb it all while it falls off naturally. That way they get their cord blood after birth without storage etc and its healthier for it to stay attached to the baby if it is possible. So yes I think every parent has the right to keep it if they wish and more should be taught about the option to keep it attached to baby if it doesn’t need to be separated.

  9. Angela says:

    I live in NC and I have three children and took all three home with me, so my husband could do a ceremony and bury it. The ceremony and burial took place at our home, so that the children will always know where home is. We ran into no issue whatsoever. The only stipulations given to us was, as long as there were no complications where the placenta would be needed to be examined or whatever, and that it was taken out that night, so that it wasn’t just sitting in my room. I don’t see why the placenta isn’t considered part of the mother’s property. And besides what would the issue be? I’ve seen people allowed to take home gall stones, and I knew one guy who had his tonsils. How or why he kept them I never asked, but if that’s ok then why not placenta?

  10. KaelinRae says:

    I personally won’t be taking mine home, I’d feel much better if the hospital took care of disposal for me. However, as long as the hospital does proper tests to make sure there is no disease, I don’t see why other mothers shouldn’t be allowed to do what they wish with it.

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