October 28, 2021

Cortland mothers impact more than 7,000 lives

The main entrance to Cortland Regional Medical Center.

After Birth, The Gifts a Placenta Can Give

During your pregnancy, the placenta and umbilical cord help keep your baby healthy and developing. But did you know that after your baby is born, this birth tissue could enhance someone else’s health and healing?

It’s true. For more than 100 years, the medical community has been using the placenta to fight scarring, infection, and swelling. Today Cortland Regional Medical Center (CRMC) and the Central New York Eye and Tissue Bank (CNYETB) are making it possible for moms who are having a scheduled cesarean delivery to donate their placenta and umbilical cord to help others see, recover from surgery faster, and even grow new skin.

Why Is Birth Tissue Medically Valuable?

“Birth tissue is a nearly perfect donor tissue because it can be used universally. Due to its unique cellular makeup and immunological characteristics, as well as how it’s processed, amniotic grafts do not have to be directly matched with a specific recipient,” said Mark Kenville, Director of the CNYETB. 

It’s the innermost layer of the placenta, called the amnion that is of interest medically. This thin, tough sac protects the embryo from injuries during pregnancy. The unique combination of collagens and proteins in the amnion and the umbilical cord make them valuable after birth. Eye doctors use this tissue to treat a wide range of eye injuries, everything from ulcers and corneal abrasions to chemical burns and dry eye. Amnion is also showing great promise for treating gum disease.

Considered one of the most effective biological skin substitutes available, placental tissue is particularly valuable in treating burn victims. Burns are not only painful and scarring but if large enough, they can leave patients at risk of serious infection. The size of the placenta and the tissue’s ready acceptance by the host are just two benefits it offers for treating burns. When used with skin grafts, birth tissue helps fix the graft to the wound bed, so patients heal faster and with less pain.

Birth tissue is very similar to the connective tissue that stabilizes, separates, covers and protects just about everything in the human body – bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, organs, the spine, and the brain. When used post operatively to repair ankle tendons, birth tissue helped reduce adhesions and swelling. Its application has extended to neurology and orthopedics for spinal surgery and treating chronic back pain.

How does Cortland Regional’s birth tissue donation program work?

The physicians, midwives, and nurses at Cortland Regional ensure information is made available to women who are having a planned cesarean delivery. There are a couple of reasons why donations are only accepted from cesarean deliveries. The first is to ensure the most sterile tissue collection possible. The second is that a CNYETB technician must be on hand at the time of the birth to collect the placenta.

Interested mothers are referred to the Eye and Tissue Bank, which then conducts a donor risk assessment interview with the mom. CNYETB contacts the donor’s physician, and on the delivery date, a technician arrives at the hospital. The tech and Cortland Regional nurses work together to complete pre-surgery procedures.

Cortland Regional averages four donations a month. Since each placenta can enhance or save up to 100 lives, the hospital and generous moms have impacted more than 7,000 lives!

“It’s a wonderful way for moms who’ve just experienced one of life’s greatest miracles to share with someone else the miracle of healing,” says Olga Levitskiy, nurse manager of Cortland Regional’s maternity department. “It’s safe, it’s simple, and it doesn’t cost the mother or her family a thing. What better way is there to help heal someone else and to feel good about doing it?”

To learn more about Cortland Regional Medical Center’s placenta donation program, call (607) 756-3750 or visit the Central New York Eye and Tissue Bank’s website at www.cnyetb.com.