Two health experts on Tuesday said that improper disposal of placenta after birth could be hazardous to the health and environment.
They made this known in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
A medical website, www.mayoclinic.com, says, “Placenta is a structure that develops in the uterus during pregnancy.
“The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby and removes waste products from baby’s blood.
“It attaches to the wall of the uterus, and the baby’s umbilical cord arises from it.
“In most pregnancies, the placenta attaches at the top or side of the uterus. “Most times, the placenta is expelled from the womb, some minutes after the baby is delivered.”
Dr Abimbola Sowande, the Country Director of AIDSTAR- One Nigeria, said that placenta could be a source of infection.
“If the placenta is not properly handled, one runs a risk of contracting infectious and polluting the environment, even when you are carrying it in a red sanitary or disposal bag.
“One runs a risk of getting HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis if there is a leak and the person has a cut or abrasion.
“This is because often times, in our environment, the comprehensive health status of the person that has just put to birth is not usually known,” she said.
Sowande said that health facilities should be responsible for the proper disposal of medical wastes like the placenta. “The right thing is for the health facilities to take care of placentas through proper incineration process. This is what obtains in advanced countries such as England.
“Here, we demand for placentas for burial. People do it for various reasons, especially because most of our cultures require that one takes it and buries in a farmland or with a palm seedling.
“People need to be convinced that this is not a proper means of disposal.
“Except, if the placenta is buried deep into the soil, in a manner that it will not contaminate the underground or be dug up by animals,’’ she said.
Dr Femi Ajayi, a public health consultant, said that some standard public health precautions should be taken for the health and safety of the public when burying placentas. “Disposal of the placenta after birth can take place in many ways depending on one’s culture, and personal preference.
“Often times, it is discarded as medical waste.
“But, with many cases involving rituals and the likes, people prefer to take home their placentas.
“The first step to take before a placenta is released from the hospital and taken home for burial is to ensure that it has gone through pathological examination,’’ he said.
According to Ajayi, the placenta is a fertile place for micro-organisms to grow.
“So, acceptable public health disposal standards are to be observed to reduce the risks of infections.
“When the placenta has been certified fit to leave the health facility, it is required that it should be wrapped in yellow or red clinical waste bags.
“It can then be taken home and buried at a sufficient depth, such that animals will not scavenge on it, or it becomes a potential source of infection to both humans and animals.
“It is important that people be aware of this, and know the effects of not adhering to these standards. Our people in the rural areas should also be sensitised,’’ he said.