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Placenta befouled, mom told

A woman battling Sunrise Hospital to retrieve her placenta from a birth three weeks ago says she has been told the organ is contaminated and that she will have to get a court order if she wants the hospital to turn it over to her.

Anne Swanson, who said last week that she wants the placenta for its nutrients, said she has no intention of ingesting it now that she's been informed of the contamination.

Swanson, 30, said she was told she had until May 15 to get the court order or the placenta would be destroyed. She and about a dozen other women stood Monday along Maryland Parkway outside Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center to rally in support of Swanson's efforts to retrieve her placenta.

Some held signs reading "Help. Placenta Held Hostage" and "Free the Placenta."

Placenta contents are said to provide relief to women suffering from postpartum depression. Swanson had hoped Jodi Selander, a North Las Vegas mother, would have taken her placenta and transformed it into pill form for consumption.

With respect to the court order, Twinkle Chisholm, a spokeswoman for Sunrise Hospital, said Monday that she could not discuss specific patient issues because of federal law. She said, per Clark County regulations, Sunrise Hospital keeps placentas in cold storage for three days.

If there is no request from a physician for the temporary organ, which transfers oxygen and nutrients from mother to the fetus during pregnancy, the placenta is disposed of, Chisholm said.

Swanson said she plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada for help obtaining the court order.

"This is just for the principle of the thing,'' Swanson said Monday holding her baby, Maxanne, in a olive-colored sling across her chest. "I plan to plant it now. That's what I want to do. It is a huge part of Maxanne's life. I want it.''

The majority of women rallying with Swanson Monday had also ingested their placentas in some form. Most were either pregnant or holding the hands of small children.

Initially, Swanson said, she was told that the placenta was considered a biohazard.

Hospital officials said last week only in an extreme circumstance would a placenta be released to a patient because diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis could be spread. Neither Swanson nor her baby have HIV or hepatitis.

During Monday's rally, Selander collected more than 30 names for a petition she plans to submit to Nevada legislators. The idea is to get a law written, and someday passed in Nevada, that would allow hospitals to release placentas to women who request them.

"It happened in Hawaii. It could happen here,'' she said.

Though causes of postpartum depression are unclear, experts believe a sudden decrease in hormone levels is to blame.

During pregnancy, a woman's body produces more estrogen and progesterone than needed, and those excess hormones can build up in the placenta.

Within 24 hours after childbirth, the woman's body stops producing large amounts of estrogen and progesterone.

Traditionally, postpartum depression is treated with therapy or antidepressants. However, the belief in traditional Chinese medicine is that placentas can be used to treat postpartum depression because they contain excess hormones.

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