Opportunity for women to give gift of healing after childbirth

March 30, 2022

New program at St. Peter’s Health allows local women to donate birth tissue after safe delivery

Women who deliver babies at St. Peter's Health now have the opportunity to donate their birth tissue, following the healthy delivery of their baby, giving the gift of healing to others. Nutrient-rich birth tissue donations are made possible by partnering with Birth Tissue Donor Services (BTDS), an organization with over 50 years of experience serving and honoring a mother's wish to donate birth tissue and support the need for human tissues for transplantation, research and education. Participation in the program is 100% voluntary, and women can opt-in to the no-cost program once they are admitted to the hospital.

Since the program launched at St. Peter’s in November 2021, over 96% of eligible women giving birth at St. Peter’s have opted to donate tissue. Not all women are eligible to donate based on medical history, and blood tests are completed to confirm the tissue is safe for transplantation. The local health care system is the first large hospital in Montana to offer this program through BTDS. To help facilitate the program, a BTDS representative is on-site six days a week, and over 50 women have successfully donated to date at St. Peter’s.

Birth tissue can include the placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid. BTDS packages the tissue and sends it to organizations that process the donated tissue into transplantable grafts. One placenta can be used to make up to 65 tissue grafts. These tissue grafts can help prevent wound infections, reduce inflammation and minimize scarring. The grafts are used to help wound care and burn patients and can be used to create cervical grafts and ocular (eye) grafts. 

"The great part about this program is that it is non-invasive and risk-free. The tissue collection happens after a safe delivery," said St. Peter's Women and Children's Unit Director Betsy Williams, RN. "Instead of discarding the birth tissue as medical waste after delivery, with the mother's permission, we give it to a trained recovery technician. Women can also decide to donate all available tissue or just some, which means that it doesn't interfere with a women's wish to bank cord blood, for example."

There are beneficiaries of birth tissue donations just three floors down from the Women and Children’s Unit in St. Peter’s dedicated outpatient Wound Care department.

“A program such as this is important to other areas of medicine,” said St. Peter’s Wound Care Director Jane O’Driscoll, PT, CLT, WCC. “Our advanced wound care cellular tissue products utilized in our wound care center are made from donated placental tissue. These products allow patients who have lived with a chronic wound for years to experience complete healing finally.”

St. Peter’s partners with Washington-based LifeCenter Northwest for all other tissue and organ donation efforts.

To learn more about Labor and Delivery at St. Peter's, click here