New Pregnancy Fear: Who's Got Your Placenta Now?


delivery roomAs if pregnant women didn't have enough to freak out about when they're wheeled into the hospital to deliver their baby. Now a bunch of nursing students in hot water for posting photos of patients' placentas on Facebook have us all wondering: is there any part of the birthing process that isn't humiliating?

First we have to put on one of those awful hospital gowns, and throw open our legs for anyone who wants to play guess the centimeters. Then we get tubes stuck up our hoo hoo to get out our urine. And then there's the pushing -- with requisite pooping oneself -- while your aunt hovers with a camera focused on your vag. Now the nursing students of Johnson County Community College want to freak us out more?

Apparently the students asked their instructor if they could take photos of the woman's placenta and post them on Facebook, and she thought they were kidding. So she didn't say no. She said, "You girls." To which the morons future nurses said, "Yup, that's us, little girls" and posted them anyway. When the instructor saw them, they were yanked, and the "girls" were kicked out of college.

Now one of them, Doyle Barnes, is suing to get back into school and claiming that this was simply her way of sharing her "educational" experience with her Facebook friends. The photos, her lawsuit says, were not "disrespectful of the organ."

Interestingly, the Kansas City Star article about the lawsuit says nothing of the woman who birthed said organ -- save for the fact that she isn't in the pictures, so her placenta is not identifiable. But as a mother, I have always had mixed feelings about the placenta.

I'm not so "respectful" that I'll join up with the crowd who munches it postpartum. And I had zero interest in taking it home to plant in the backyard. It was not as valuable to me as my child, and once it was out, I was done with it.

But it was my placenta. It sustained my daughter for nine months, then it came out of my body. I had an expectation that it would go from my womb straight into medical waste, with no stops for monkey business along the way. To think of my placenta being played with, photographed, and used as evidence of the oddity of one's educational experience is jarring at best, humiliating at worst.

Facebook is where we share photos of our drunken night out with the girls, the time our toddler got hold of a marker and drew on their own body, the dog caught eating out of the garbage can. By its very purpose, it's a place to be social and share photos that make us grin.

But my placenta isn't there to make someone else laugh. It's not a goofy little bit of waste. It's the nutrient rich bag of cells that kept my kid alive. It's the very essence of the "miracle" of the human body. For someone to succeed in the health care field, they need to respect not just the people they care for but every bit of the human body.

Would this leave you feeling violated?


Image via norfolkdistrict/Flickr

delivery, labor & delivery, labor


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Amy Knoch

I'd be ticked.  And am glad the "girls" got kicked out of school for doing it.  Maybe next time they want to pull a stupid stunt like that they'll think about it first.

squish squish

I LOVED your discription of a hospital birth!! Wonderful!! Now if only couples could understand that homebirth is about respect and safety... I believe that hospitals would eventually follow suit. When we become consumers instead of patients with respect to birth, we can actually make a change.

And good for the school for kicking these "little girls" out. They do not have proper respect for others if they can't even understand why that was wrong.

stell... stellarluna

no, there's no way for them to identify it as my placenta; however, being in their position they need to learn about respecting privacy, and should have asked the mother if she minded if they photographed the placenta.  I understand wanting photos to refer to later on, but not to post up unless I was given unquestionable permission to do so by the owner.  I find that sort of stuff interesting and like to see pictures of what people did with theirs and the encapsulation process and so on.  I also homebirthed and kept my placenta... trying to figure out what do do with it... we'll probably get a cherry tree or something along those lines and plant it with the tree in the spring.   I am one of those weirdos I guess... I have deep affection for my daughter's placenta!  

nonmember avatar nonmember

I can't even pretend to be shocked at this immature excuse for behavior from yet more people who are trying to be in the medical community which is already plagued with problems. None of these girls needs to be let back in college. They aren't even close to grown up enough to be working in any part of the medical field.

rerra... rerratron

I love how the birthing mother was never asked or included in the conversation.

Is that behavior even legal? I would think there would be some issue of privacy involved.

kenzie07 kenzie07

I'm with rerratron... I wonder if the mother was even asked by the hospital if she wanted her placenta donated for study.  Makes me wonder what happened to mine.  Hmmm.

qrex912 qrex912

that's silly. if the mom wasn't in the picture, and was in no way identified in the photo or caption, who cares? yeah, they broke the rules and are now facing consequences, but i wouldn't feel "violated." that's dumb. personally, i saw mine, and it was gross. i don't know why one would want pictures of it on facebook, but whatever.

nonmember avatar sophieS

Hmmm interesting.
I also just read a nurses perspective on this.
She has some interesting points.

jalaz77 jalaz77

Kind of unprofessional. Maybe these students should have asked the mother first. Also WHY do these students have their phones on them anyway? Don't tell me for emergencies! I am a nurse and my phone stays in my bag until I am on break and/or pumping.

nonmember avatar Allboys

It is very telling that you view birth as humiliating. I firmly believe that any woman who feels their birth was humiliating was not treated appropriately during the birth of their child. This specific instance is just one more situation that reinforces my feelings on health care professionals. They aren't very professional and their lacking with the health care because they are to busy with shenanigans.

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