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Manhattan Couple Sues To Keep Placenta

By Monica Bielanko |

A lot of rumblings about placentas on the internet this week.  Earlier, right here on Being Pregnant, Ceridwen posted a story about how a Student Was Expelled For a Facebook Picture of a Placenta.  Today I read a story in the New York Post about how a Manhattan couple is getting a court order to keep the placenta from the birth of their first child who is due any day now.

You mean, they have to sue to keep something that is currently inside the mother’s body? Something her body made? Yep.

Apparently, and I didn’t know this, a placenta (which is the organ that envelops a fetus and connects it to its mother’s blood supply) is considered medical waste and is discarded. Some states, including, apparently, New York, try to regulate what you can do with a placenta and may even prohibit you from taking it home. Which I think is a damn shame because you know what else a placenta has? Stem cells. A lot of stem cells. In fact, there are far more stem cells in placentas than in umbilical cord blood, and they can be safely extracted for transplantation or research.

Should medical research involving the use of human stem cells be permitted? That’s a long-running debate that I’m not interested in having here. But shouldn’t I be able to keep my own placenta if I want to? Hell, I should be able to microwave it and eat it with a little salt and butter if that’s my thing. Maybe whip up a quick placenta jelly? Whatever. IT’S MY PLACENTA.

A quick search around the internet shows people advising others to commit all sorts of hanky panky in order to sneak out of the hospital with their placentas. Check out this thread from a message board. Who knew there was such an uproar about placentas? I kind of want to keep mine now, just because it’s mine. And also, this recipe for Placenta Spaghetti Bolognaise sounds pretty good, no?

Photo credit:  Mads Toft Frisentette/GettyImages

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Manhattan Couple Sues To Keep Placenta

  1. Danielle625 says:

    I agree 100%! A mother should be able to take her placenta with her, and cook it up with some fava beans and chianti if that is what the hell she wants to do!

  2. Cheeky says:

    “Apparently, and I didn’t know this, a placenta (which is the organ that envelops a fetus and connects it to its mother’s blood supply) is considered medical waste and is discarded.”

    What on earth did you imagine that hospitals do with placentas after birth? ANYTHING that’s removed or expelled from the body in a hospital is either disposed of or sent to the pathology lab (and eventually disposed of). If you have your gallbladder removed, they aren’t going to hand it over to you in a bag with the rest of your belongings.

  3. Cheeky says:

    And I’m sorry, no, placenta spaghetti bolognaise does not sound pretty good. Would you eat any other organ from your body?

  4. MonicaBielanko says:

    For the name “Cheeky” you aren’t demonstrating a very good sense of humor.

  5. Cheeky says:

    Was the article meant to be funny?

  6. MonicaBielanko says:

    The line about placenta spaghetti bolognaise was obviously sarcastic…

  7. Di says:

    While the blog itself was funny, these comments are pure gold. Indeed, Cheeky does not seem to get it.

  8. Amber says:

    bwaaahaaaa. Seriously, up until now, i thought they used the placenta to make high end lipsticks. I really read that somewhere. (i think?) maybe i had a dream of it? could have been a blip from my stoned days too. who knows. but do you have the recipe for the spaghetti bolognaise? daaayyyyng that sounds good.

  9. eal says:

    So if the placenta also has stem cells, why is there such a focus on cord blood?

  10. Auset says:

    ACTUALLY they sell the placentas to pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic companies …for shampoo, skin care products and other cosmetics…

  11. Auset says:

    the focus on the cord is because they dont want all of the last blood/stem cells to go to the baby. they want to quickly cut the cord so the last of the blood/stem cells remain in the cord and placenta so they can experiement and sell it

  12. Ebony says:

    Amber don’t be so relieved yet. Placentas are and have been in high demand for the cosmetic industry for many years! Google it!!! There’s lots of reasons that they want to keep yours!

  13. Sam says:

    Most mammals eat the placenta. When you know what’s in it, seems a terrible waste not to. Everyone goes on and on about how new mums needs to rest (sleep when the baby sleeps, don’t worry about the dishes for a while, etc etc.) but the one thing that can give her some much needed energy and vitamin/nutrient boost is disdained. To those who think it’s gross: do you eat eggs?!!!!

    Not sure if i could actually eat it… Have it encapsulated maybe… I’ve heard some people bury it and plant a tree over it… Seems a nice way to commemorate the birth and also one way to ensure your tree does well. That aside, if I wanted to take my gall bladder or appendix or any other “bit” home, I should jolly well be allowed to!

  14. Aussiemidwife says:

    Great story….maybe not for you all in the USA. I am a midwife in Australia. When a woman gives birth at the hospital I work at, and wishes to take hone HER placenta, a form is signed stating that she understands that it may have unknown bacteria etc in it that have not been tested for but that she is able to take it home at her own risk. The form is countersigned by the midwife and the parents are able to take the placenta home. Even the father can sign the form! It is such a simple process that appears to be coming more and more popular as people are becoming more educated as to the additional “useful” effect of a placenta. Some couples will screw their nose up in me is disgust when I even mention the possibility of taking their placenta home….but at least they have the opportunity to do it without it being a big legal dispuit.

  15. Sarah says:

    I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating mine, but I did have it encapsulated after my third baby was born at home. Although she was a whopping 9 pounder, I had the easiest, fastest recovery of any of my three births. Within days, I was full of energy and making milk like crazy. Everyone wants to discount it as “nasty,” but the benefits are enormous. In this age where so many women suffer from postpartum depression, hormonal imbalance, reduced milk production, and so many other post-birth ills, it might be worthwhile to set aside our ideas of “gross” and make an informed decision.

  16. allthingsbirth says:

    Actually a lot of people have brought home there gall stones, pickled appendix and the like. Hospitals do not throw out all Medical Waste. Laws vary from state to state and county to county but many facilities reuse left over blood samples in teaching hosp. to teach students. The same goes for a fetus. Although the tied has turned this is was huge source for doctors to play, study and experiment with stem cells with.
    Medial Schools buy these discarded items to use in practical study.

    My dad spent 34 years mopping up the OR after surguries and loads of stuff doesn’t get thrown out.

  17. MamaLo83 says:

    I was born at home w/ the help of a midwife, so my parents were allowed to keep the placenta and my dad buried by a tree in our yard.

  18. EstrogenCity says:

    One of my childhood friends was saved by stem cells from umbilical blood – they were able to use the stem cells (which matched his very rare blood type and several other factors) to do a bone marrow transplant that he wouldn’t have had the option to have otherwise. When I had my babies I tried to find someone I could donate the cord blood to (since we can’t afford to bank it and that seems silly to me when I could save someone right now) but no one will take it as a donation. So sad to watch them throw out cells that could have saved a life. On that note, it also is ridiculous to have to fight to keep one’s placenta – it’s different than an organ removed for illness, it’s a healthy organ that is simply no longer needed. It, like liver or kidney is filled with nutrients, many of which were taken from the mothers body to provide for her baby – eating it is a way to replenish those things faster. I was finally convinced of this when I read the ingredients for postpartum supplements – cow liver, kidney, etc. . . If I’m going to “eat” an organ anyways, why shouldn’t it be mine – then I know what’s in it.

  19. Sarah Hill says:

    We actually banked our child’s cord blood. If he has any health problems in the future, they can actually use the stem cells to heal him. Obviously this is only for certain health problems, but you’d be surprised what they can do! If you’ve never heard of this, you can check out the company we used:

  20. Mommaofsix says:

    I had a miscarriage between baby #4 and baby #5 and required a D&C. My husband was EXTREMELY distrought over the thought that our baby would be thrown in the trash. We crossed out all the lines in the consent form that had anything to do with disposal, wrote in that we would be taking anything and everything removed home with us, explained our reasoning to the doctor and it was no problem. As long as nothing has been put in the formaldehyde solution you should be able to take it with you-it’s not medical waste until the doctors at the hospital make it so, it’s biological, and perfectly biodegradable waste.

  21. hannah says:

    this is a joke, here in new zealand. you get the choice and its traditional for maori families to take it. with my home birth the midwife just left it in the bathroom. p.s placenta bollognese ewwwww! lol

  22. Jacinta Hay says:

    Tthat is really sad. here in Queensland (Australia) it is no big deal to take a placenta home. We have many groups of parents who want to do this for cultural or spiritual reasons.We also have a number of cord blood banks.With the public banks the cord blood is donated and goes on an international reigster to be used for babies and children with various blood cancers in leiu of a bone marrow transplant.
    If you request it also you can have delayed cord clamping which has a number of great benefits for the baby

  23. Jacinta Hay says:

    PS if you are expecting do google delayed cord clamping or leaving babies cord to stop pulsating

  24. Ina Mae O'Connor says:

    I do believe people take their gallstones home or maybe that is dated. I guess they will have to check all babies for meconium stools at the door as that is certainly something that is expelled. I used to love helping couples take home their placenta.

  25. Helene says:

    I think cheeky’s comment is the funniest – that anything expelled from your body in a hospital should be medical waste. Like the baby????

  26. Tina says:

    Mine is still in our freezer and my husband likes to shock/gross out our guest by telling them we’re saving it for placenta burgers. ;) Actually we haven’t decided if to plant it with a tree or to save it to have it made into capsules to help with menopause later.

  27. Mama Wrench says:

    Technically, it’s not made from the mom. It’s made from the baby. So… you’re eating your BABY’S external organ. You’re basically eating an external liver. It’s a filter organ that keeps the toxins and junk that YOU eat and expose yourself to hurting the baby.

    Sorry… I’m not buying that it’s anything other than New Age hippy nonsense. Animals eat their placentas because animals don’t eat processed crap and don’t breathe a constant stream of industrial toxins. If it makes other people happy to do so… go for it, and hospitals shouldn’t prevent parents from that choice. And I definitely HIGHLY recommend cord blood donation for research or stem cell therapy (if for no reason other than to prevent aborted/miscarried babies from being used for stem cell experimentation).

  28. fhaya says:

    I’m from Indonesia, and placentas are traditionally taken home, bundled in white cloth and buried, usually with a little ceremony, sort of burying the dead. Hospitals have nothing to do with them. Giving birth in a hospital in Maryland, USA, I was offered to take home my placenta by the midwife, but my husband and I opted to leave it at the hospital. As far as eating a placenta….I don’t have the guts, so to speak.

  29. Carrie says:

    Just know that there are many facilities in the US where you can take home your placenta by simply signing a form. There are many long-standing traditions involving the placenta that include consuming it in some way or using it as part of a ceremony by returning it to the earth. It doesn’t matter why these parents want to take it home- it should be a simple process if they do. I hope they were able to do it. Do you have any follow-up on this story?

  30. Judith says:

    Mama Wrench has a very good point. I don’t eat liver and don’t believe it’s healthy because it is a filter. It takes all the crap out of the body, so why would anyone want to eat one? True, a cow doesn’t eat much more than grass, but who knows what’s on that grass? And what if the cow is exposed to toxins or pollution? Its liver will filter it out, so whoever eats that liver will be eating those toxins. Also, I think liver tastes gross…maybe that’s why?

    I wasn’t given the option to keep my son’s placenta, but I doubt I would have kept it had they asked. :)

  31. Tempi says:

    Actually, US hospitals WILL allow you to take home a gall stone, kidney stone etc. Placenta should be no different. For many, it’s considered religious as they believe it must be handled in a certain manner for religios purposes/reasons. Personally, I’m not into doing anything with mine…I delayed clamping and that was about all I needed from my placenta once my LO was born…but if I made it I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it. bury it, etc.

  32. Amber @Beyond Postpartum says:

    I took my placenta home after having the first “natural cesarean” ever performed at my hospital. Even in a very conventional setting, with the partnership of the right OB or midwife, lots of things “against policy” are possible. I had horrible postpartum depression anxiety after my first child, so my doctor was on board to help me do anything I could to lessen the impact of this terrible disorder after my second. I believe that with preventative treatment the placenta encapsulation did give me a much better recovery and postpartum period this time. You can read more at my blog…

  33. says:

    This is not the only case of families fighting for their placentas. Court cases in HI and in NV are on the books and give moms the right to their placentas. As a placenta encapsulation specialists in Northern California I run into local hospital staff all the time who do not know their hospital’s release policy when it comes to placentas. Thankfully most quickly realize that a mother should be able to take home her healthy placenta no matter what the reason and promptly hand it over. –

  34. Meredith says:

    I’d sue over my placenta any day! But, I guess that’s why I have homebirths, so I don’t have to sue anyone:) No one bats an eye…love it that way!

  35. christy says:

    I think that it should continue to be used in research. HOWEVER: the mom should have first find on it and should br up to her for what she wants done with it. It would also be prudent to share with mom’s that their placenta may be used in research if they choose not to take it with them. And, as long as hospitals are getting money for selling them, give a cut to mom….or at least let people know about it. Amazing how many people don’t know about this practice.

  36. Melly says:

    When I had baby #2 I brought my placenta home and had it encapsulated. I had a much easier recovery then with my daughter and had and still have 11 months later, a high milk production.

    Those of you that screw your nose up over this need to educate yourselves. There are many benefits to mom from consumption of the placenta.

  37. Missy says:

    This is funny I came across this today, as just this morning I pulled my sons placenta out of the freezer (he is now 3yrs old) and planted it in the yard with a nice feijoa tree on top of it. So glad that in NZ you are given the option of keeping it.

  38. Rachana Shivam says:

    The placenta belongs to the baby. There is no medical reason to cut the umbilical cord. Babies benefit enormously from being left with their placentas intact until the cord comes away at the navel 2-9 days after the birth. Storing cord blood is a hoax. The blood in the placenta and cord at birth is 30-50% of the baby’s total blood volume. Babies who are deprived of this blood, and most have been for the past 70years when early clamping of the umbilical cord was introduced into hospitals to reduce the blood on hospital linen, (truly!) are highly compromised. The ever deteriorating state of our populations health can be traced to this horrific practice as well as the low incidence of total breast feeding. There is no medical reason to cut the cord.

  39. Barbara says:

    In Maryland a woman’s right to bring her placenta home from the hospital is protected. Contact the Baltimore chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network for a copy of the document titled “Placentas vs. Maryland Law.”

  40. You made various good points there. I did a search on the issue and found most persons will have the same opinion with your blog.

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