If you are birthing at a hospital, you will find that the rules and regulations regarding the release of a healthy placenta will vary from one institution to another. Some hospitals will release it immediately without a fuss and some have protocols about keeping placentas in pathology for a period of time. The following are some suggestions for navigating the system in general as well as some information on individual hospital policies.
Who and How to Ask
~ Talk to your care providers about your wishes before hand and write them in your birth plan. Make it clear that you would like it to be released to you immediately and be prepared to take it. You do not need to tell them what exactly you want your placenta for: "Personal Beliefs" should, legally, be reason enough and if you do chose to tell them, their personal beliefs should not stand in the way of your rights to your own organ.
~ Write or print off a sign that you can tape to your placenta container:
WAIT! Our placenta is going home. Please help us keep it clean and uncontaminated.
Do: - Refrigerate or let us use our own cooler - Examine only on a clean/sanitized surface
Don't: - Contaminate with formalin, glycol, saline, etc. - Freeze (unless necessary for extended holding) Thank you for helping our family!
~ Frequently the doctors do not know what the hospital policy really is regarding placental release so you will need to clear things with your nurse or the head nurse since they are the ones held responsible for where the placenta goes. Sometimes though, your care provider may be willing and able to just sign off on your chart that you can have it released to you.
~ Make it very clear that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD IT BE TREATED WITH THE HARMFUL CHEMICAL FORMALIN OR FORMALDEHYDE! If your placenta will be stored in the pathology department, then ask your nurse to clearly write your wishes on the outside of the placenta container so that there is no mix up or contamination.
~ If your current hospital is not willing to release your placenta to you, you can think about switching to a different hospital with more open release policies or use a homebirth or birth center midwife instead. Feel free to contact me for referrals.