Hospitals in US state of Oregon allow mothers to take home placentas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 10:19pm


New mothers will now be able to leave hospitals in the US state of Oregon with two bundles of joy - one in a car seat, the other in a cooler.

The first, of course, is the baby. The second, thanks to one of the more curious laws that went into effect with the new year, is the placenta.

Many cultures have long revered the fleshy organ, whose chief duty is to provide nourishment and oxygen to the fetus.

Today, an increasing number of women in the West believe eating the tissue in pill form, raw, or perhaps in a smoothie, can help ease post-natal depression. But one person's sacred object is another's medical waste. Which is where Oregon state lawmaker Alissa Keny-Guyer comes in.

The Portland Democrat said she was first approached about the placenta's possibilities and problems by Dr Melvin Kohn, who was Oregon's public health director at the time.

Kohn is married to a midwife, who told him many women wanted to take their placentas home for consumption, burial or other ritual purposes.

But in Oregon it was illegal for hospitals to let people claim placentas. So last year Keny-Guyer introduced a bill to change that and it was passed unanimously.

Tree of Life Placenta Services, an Oregon firm devoted to the organ, offers to turn a woman's placenta into a tasty tortilla soup. Or bake it into a rich lasagne. Or create a ritual for burying the organ.

The most common service Tree of Life provides is called placenta encapsulation. "We steam it really gently over ginger, a very traditional postpartum herb, and lemon," the firm's founder Raeben Nolan said. "There's a tea left over that tastes surprisingly good. We have the mother drink that tea. It's very nourishing."

But legality isn't the main problem in having placenta consumption thrust into the mainstream.

"This is brand new for Western medicine," said Heather Rauh, a birth consultant who plans to have her placenta processed into pills when she gives birth in a couple of months. "The biggest hurdle is the ick factor."