Oregon Senate OKs bill letting moms keep placentas
By LAUREN GAMBINO
Of the Associated Press
SALEM — The Oregon Legislature has agreed that mothers who've just given birth should be able to take home their placentas.
“For cultural reasons and other reasons many families like to take home the placenta after the baby is born,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Democrat from Beaverton.
The state Senate unanimously approved the bill Monday, as the House did in March. The bill goes to Gov. John Kitzhaber. The governor's spokesman Tim Raphael says Kitzhaber anticipates signing the bill, but will review it first.
Under current state law, hospitals are prohibited from releasing hazardous medical waste, which includes human placentas. Oregon hospitals, however, have allowed mothers to take home their placentas for cultural and religious reasons.
Some mothers have their placentas put into capsules, which they consume in the belief it boosts their energy and staves off post-partum depression. Experts have said there is no scientific evidence of a health benefit.
“There's no scientific evidence stating that it's entirely safe,” said Dr. Mark Kristal, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Buffalo.
Kristal said placenta-eating was first reported in the 1970s when people living in communes cooked the organ into stew. The increasing number of American women eating their placentas today means the fad is back, he said.
Most mammals eat their placentas, he said. Humans, whales and dolphins are among the few exceptions.
Actress January Jones spotlighted the issue when she claimed that ingesting her placenta helped boost her energy and get her back to work just weeks after giving birth. Parenting blogs lit up after the “Mad Men” star's disclosure, and the responses ranged from intrigue to disgust.
Some cultures have rituals related to disposing of a placenta, such as burying the organ with the umbilical cord underneath a tree. It's believed by some that the placenta has a spirit that watches over the baby of the parents.
These cultural and religious traditions have seeped into mainstream, and businesses have sprung up to meet the demands of women who want to take home their placentas.
Raeben Nolan, who began Tree of Life Placenta Services in 2007, said she's noticed an uptick in clients since she opened shop in Portland six years ago.
“It's becoming more popular. It's just a tide change,” she said.
Tree of Life Services offers placenta encapsulation, placenta burial services and even placenta art, a bloody print of the placenta pressed on to paper. Clients can also buy meals made of their placentas, such as tortilla soup or lasagna.
Oregon legislators said they wanted to remove legal barriers.
“Women should be entitled to bring their placenta home,” said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, a Portland Democrat and the bill's chief sponsor.
Originally, the bill required that the mother be educated about the organ and allowed the husband or partner of the person who gave birth to take home the placenta in the event of death or incapacitation. Another provision stipulated that mothers agree not to sell their placentas.
These provisions were stripped in committee, and the Oregon Health Authority was given authority to regulate the release of human placentas.