“And would you like the placenta with that?”
This is what new-mothers might be hearing today in Oregon, where it’s officially become legal for parents to leave the hospital with their child’s placenta. Under previous laws, placentas were labeled “hazardous medical waste” and destroyed on the premises, unless parents had a religious or cultural reason that required they take it home. Now, anyone can walk out of an Oregon hospital with both a child and the placenta. And no, you don’t need an extra carseat for it.
We took Felix’s placenta home with us after he was delivered in a hospital here in New York City. The midwife showed us the “tree of life” — how the veins on one side of the placenta branch out from the trunk-like umbilical cord in an unmistakable tree shape. It’s a fitting metaphor for the organ too, which works as a mediator between the blood of the mother and the fetus, moving waste from fetus to mother, and nutrients the other way, without the bloodstreams mingling.
After the, uh, bloody show, the midwife wrapped the placenta in bio-hazard bags and then handed it off to me when no one was around. In a move MacGyver would’ve approved of, I stashed it in a pillowcase, which I then secured in a freezer pack. Once home, we put the crimson little package in the freezer. Three months later, we celebrated Placenta Day: burying the thing in the backyard and plopping a Fothergilla shrub on top, which Felix now calls “his plant.” It’s doing great!
We were part of a growing trend of people who want their afterbirth after the birth. What for, you may ask, besides burying in the backyard? Oh, but do you really want to know? Click on to find out what people are doing with their placentas these days.