A new policy at Miami Valley Hospital’s Berry Birthing Center in Ohio is requiring new mothers to wait 72 hours before their baby’s placenta will be released. The new policy was established by request of the pathology department as a precaution in case the placenta needs to be studied in response to illness of the infant or mother.
Mothers and some health practitioners say the new policy denies women access to their own and their babies’ body parts. Some women use the placenta in cultural practices or for dietary supplements.
“It belongs to the moms, and the hospital doesn’t have any right to keep it,” said Denise Easthon, a Dayton nurse-midwife and doula, or birthing coach. “It’s the moms’, and they should be able to walk out of the hospital with it.” Dayton Daily News
The debate over hospital placenta release policy has become a heated national debate. As placenta encapsulation and other customs become more popular, hospitals are seeing more mothers requesting what they feel is rightfully theirs, their placenta. Hospitals, often fearing liability, sometimes refuse release or require a family to hire a funeral home to transport the organ.
New York recently changed its law; until 2010, placental tissue was treated as human remains and had to be retrieved from hospitals by a funeral director, who then gave it to families. Now, hospitals can give healthy placenta tissue directly to families.
But some families still have to fight for it, said Grace Rice, program manager for Choices in Childbirth in New York City. “It’s kind of on a hospital-by-hospital basis, and even within hospitals, it depends on who your doctor is, who your nurse is, who your midwife is,” she said.
The debate stems from whether organs and tissues are considered a mother’s property.
Much of the debate centers on whether individuals have property rights to their own organs and tissues, Laufer-Ukeles said. It’s a gray area, she said. In 1990, a California court ruled that a patient who sued a hospital for the return of cancerous tissue had no property interest in the tissue, which was used for research.
“But on the other hand, you do have property interests in some body parts,” she said. “Sperm and eggs can be sold. Blood and other organs can be donated. We do think of our bodies as belonging to us.”
Families routinely ask for their babies’ cord blood to be banked, she pointed out.
And if placental tissue is considered human remains, families have a right to those remains, she said.
There is definitely an opportunity to educate hospitals and hospital staff about the benefits of placenta encapsulation and proper handling to ensure encapsulation is safe. The more women that request their placenta, the more likely it will be that hospitals become more willing to release, especially if they start losing business due to release policy. Only time will tell.
Excerpts from this post were originally published in the Dayton Daily News.