Your Placenta, Eat It, Bury It, Bank It

Watercolor flowers to symbolize how you can eat, bank, or bury the placenta

Is your placenta part of your birth plan? Many overlook this amazing organ's potential.  In fact, it is often discarded as medical waste. However, as expectant parents learn about the power of the placenta they wonder "What can we do with the placenta after baby is born?"

3 Things You Can Do with Your Placenta

When planning for childbirth, it’s worth spending some time thinking about what to do with your placenta after baby is born.  From ceremony to science, when it comes to your placenta, there is something for everyone:

  • Eat it (placentophagy): Although not scientifically proven, it’s widely claimed that eating your placenta increases energy levels, levels out hormones, increases breast milk quantity and reduces the chances of postpartum depression.  Most commonly, it’s encapsulated after being dried and powdered.  Sometimes it’s eaten cooked or even raw.  Things to consider when weighing this options are the risks of bacterial contamination and infection. Placentophagy has been getting a lot of attention lately, because many celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and January Jones have spoke out about the practice. 
  • Bury It: Many cultures in Africa, Europe, and Asia the placenta is revered as baby’s companion.  It’s customary to hold ceremonies, where the placenta is buried near special trees and in gardens to protect baby from bad luck or to bring good luck.

  • Bank it: Your placental tissue can be stored in until needed in the future. Placental tissue is rich in mesenchymal stem cells which are being investigated for use in treating diseases and conditions that were previously incurable or with limited treatment options available.

Why You Should Bank Placental Tissue

Your placenta is extremely important, even after baby is born.  It contains mesenchymal stems cells (MSCs), which may be a source of potential treatments for a wide range of diseases, many of which until now are incurable or have severely limited treatment options.  MSCs aremultipotent’, meaning they can produce several types of specialized cells, such as cartilage, bone, and fat cells.

MSCs can be collected and cryogenically stored for potential future use.  Unlike stem cells from cord blood and cord tissue, which are a perfect genetic match to baby and a partial genetic match to other family members,  placental tissue contain stem cells that are perfect match to you.  Like baby’s stem cells they may also be a partial match to your children, siblings, and parents.  

When you bank your placental tissue, you’re affording yourself the opportunity to store cells that have promising and unique potential uses, with more discovered every day.  Although there are no currently approved treatments using stem cells from placental tissue, there are numerous clinical trials underway investigating its benefits in treating Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injuries, Immune System Disorders, and Liver Disease.

Stem Cell Research on MSCs from Placental Tissue

Because it’s a relatively new field of investigation, most research on MSCs from placental tissue is in the preclinical stages, exploring safety and efficacy.  

  • Immune System Disorders: Research has shown that MSCs from placental tissue to have superior immune properties compared to MSCs from the umbilical cord making them better suited for potential treatments for disorders like Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Alzheimer's: In a South Korean clinical study on mice, MSCs from placental tissue improved memory, enhanced their resistance to brain inflammation, and slowed their disease progression.  The researchers concluded: “the findings strongly support the therapeutic potential and clinical use of Placenta Derived-MSCs in Alzheimer's diseases.”

  • Multiple Sclerosis:  Using a similar approach as the Alzheimer’s trial, researchers used MSCs from placental tissue to treat multiple sclerosis in mice. The treatment slowed the progression of the disease and reduced the immune response the body usually mounts against nerve cells.

  • Liver Disease: Two animal studies using MSCs from placental tissue to treat liver damage and acute liver failure showed the treatment reduced inflammation, increased liver cell regeneration, and promoted liver repair.

  • Spinal cord injuries: A research study in mice successfully induced placental derived MSCs to become neural stem cells and promoted recovery of motor and sensory functions.  

  • Hearing loss: A recent study involving animals with sensorineural hearing loss found that the treatment caused cell regeneration and reversed auditory impairment.

  • Diabetes: Also noteworthy is the research exploring how MSCs, like those found in placental tissue, can help treat chronic skin ulcers in Type 1 diabetics.  Half of these painful skin wounds are resistant to every available treatment.  In preclinical trials, diabetic wounds treated with MSCs showed noteworthy measurable improvement.

  • Ischemic Diseases: A study published 2016 highlighted the promise MSCs have shown in treating conditions where blood supply to specific organs or tissues is restricted, such as ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes foot ulcers.  In the study, MSCs were shown to modulate inflammatory and immune responses, reduce cell death, promote growth of new blood vessels, and increase blood flow. Placental tissue is acknowledged in recent medical literature as one of the viable sources of MSCs for these treatments.

Clinical trials using MSCs are also underway to treat a number of other conditions, including Stroke, Crohns Disease, Hemorrhagic Cystitis, Scleroderma, Aplastic Anemia, and Graft vs. Host Disease.

How Placental Tissue Banking Works

If you’ve decided to bank your placental tissue and signed up for a plan, you’ll receive a Collection Kit with everything you need to collect and ship your placenta to Americord’s lab for processing and storage.  

The collection process is simple and poses no risk or pain to you or baby. Before baby is born, the nurse or midwife will collect some blood samples that we will later test at our lab for certain diseases, as mandated by federal regulation.  

After baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, the doctor or midwife transfers your placenta to the collection kit and returns it to you, along with any other cord blood or cord tissue collected.  You’ll seal up the kit and call the medical courier for bedside pick-up.  The courier then rushes the kit to our laboratory for processing.  

Our lab dissects your placenta and collects tissue for stem cell extraction.  They clean the tissue to remove any contamination and process it to isolate the mesenchymal stem cells.  The cells are prepared for cryogenic preservation and stored in vials for the exclusive use of your family, whenever they’re needed for treatment.

Schedule a call with Americord's Cord Blood & Tissue Specialists to discuss if placental tissue banking is right for your family! 

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