HELENA — Saint Peter's Health in Helena is the first local health care system in the state to offer a birth tissue donation program, giving healing to those in need.
After a safe and healthy delivery, mothers can donate the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid.
"When patients come into the hospital, we have a coordinator up with here with Birth Tissue Donor Services (BTDS) , that goes in and visits with the mother to decide if this is something she is interested in and they sign some consent forms, then after a safe delivery, the tissue is taken by that coordinator and packaged up and sent to a receiving facility," said Betsy Williams, St. Peter’s Health Children and Women’s Unit Director.
After a facility receives the voluntarily donated tissue, it is processed into skin grafts.
"So burn victims, any kind of skin ulcers, or diabetics benefit from birth tissue. Women with endometriosis. People with ocular issues and corneal issues in the eye are all benefiting from birth tissue grafts," said Zach Thurber, BTDS Hospital Development Director.
Hospital staff launched the program at Saint Peter's Health in November. Since then, over 50 women have donated to the program, which repurposes the tissues staff would have thrown out as biohazard waste.
"Think about a wound on your skin and how scary and inflamed that can be, this tissue is reducing that scarring, reducing the inflammation, reducing the infection risks and infection rates of those wounds, more than anything that ever has been used in those applications before," said Thurber.
One placenta can make up to 65 tissue grafts, and the uses for birth tissue are continuously expanding.
"Literally a few weeks ago, a processor comes up with a new application because the tissue is so versatile and the patients are responding well to it, so it just keeps growing and the need keeps increasing," said Patrick AbdelMessih, BTDS Vice President of Recovery Services.
The mothers that have donated have said they were eager to help those in need.
"The women who participate in the program have been completely ecstatic about the process because it's something they can do to help others and something that most of them didn't even know was possible," said Williams.
Participation in the program is 100% voluntary, and women can opt-in to the no-cost program once they are admitted to the hospital.