Aug 20, 2021

Everybody’s Got One

We all think we know the story of pregnancy. Sperm meets egg, followed by nine months of nurturing, nesting, and quiet incubation. But this story isn’t the nursery rhyme we think it is. In a way, it’s a struggle, almost like a tiny war. And right on the front lines of that battle is another major player on the stage of pregnancy that not a single person on the planet would be here without. An entirely new organ: the placenta.

In this episode we take you on a journey through the 270-day life of this weird, squishy, gelatinous orb, and discover that it is so much more than an organ. It’s a foreign invader. A piece of meat. A friend and parent. And it’s perhaps the most essential piece in the survival of our kind.

This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Becca Bressler, and produced by Becca Bressler and Pat Walters, with help from Matt Kielty and Maria Paz Gutierrez. Additional reporting by Molly Webster.

Special thanks to Diana Bianchi, Julia Katz, Sam Behjati, Celia Bardwell-Jones, Mathilde Cohen, Hannah Ingraham, Pip Lipkin, and Molly Fassler.


Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at  


For cool new research on the placenta:

Check out Harvey’s latest paper published with Julia Katz.

Sam Behjati's latest paper on the placenta as a "genetic dumping ground". 

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Listener-supported WNYC studios.

JAD ABUMRAD: Wait. Wait. You're listening (laughter)...


JAD ABUMRAD: All right.


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JULIA LONGORIA: You're listening...

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MOLLY WEBSTER: It looks really similar.

LULU MILLER: Hey, I'm Lulu Miller.

MOLLY WEBSTER: And I'm Molly Webster.


BECCA BRESSLER: It's like red velvet bread. Look at that. Sort of.

MOLLY WEBSTER: It does look like a loaf of bread.

LULU MILLER: And today on the show...

MOLLY WEBSTER: A round a loaf of homemade bread.

LULU MILLER: With veins...


LULU MILLER: ...That's purple and red.

MOLLY WEBSTER: We have a story about a thing.

HEATHER RADKE: But also, like, blood sausage bread.

MOLLY WEBSTER: A thing that we've all had at some point.

BECCA BRESSLER: It is patty-like.

MOLLY WEBSTER: But most of us...

LULU MILLER: (Laughter).

MOLLY WEBSTER: We never even knew it.

LULU MILLER: And it comes to us from our contributing editor, Heather Radke...

HEATHER RADKE: Yeah, I'm not even on staff.

LULU MILLER: ...And...

BECCA BRESSLER: I wish you were.

LULU MILLER: ...Producer Becca Bressler.

HEATHER RADKE: Well, I think I can...

BECCA BRESSLER: You take it.

HEATHER RADKE: OK. I was thinking about getting pregnant. And I started to do a bunch of research. And, you know, pregnancy is this thing, at least for me, where I was like, I know about that, you know? I took, like, 14 years of sex ed in my public high school. But I'll just say, the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little I know and maybe, like, how little anyone knows about pregnancy. And one of the very first things I discovered was that when you're pregnant, you don't just grow a baby. You grow an entirely new organ.

BECCA BRESSLER: (Vocalizing). Let me turn it down.

HEATHER RADKE: Your whole life, you've got your heart, your lungs, your bone, your skin, your eyes, et cetera.

HARVEY KLIMAN: So this is the main hospital.

HEATHER RADKE: But then all of a sudden during pregnancy...


HEATHER RADKE: ...A whole new organ shows up.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Here is our cabinet of placentas.

HEATHER RADKE: And that organ is the placenta.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Whole placentas, pieces of placentas.

HEATHER RADKE: I had heard of the placenta before, but I really didn't know anything about it.

HARVEY KLIMAN: It's called the afterbirth for a reason. It's an afterthought that no one thinks about.

HEATHER RADKE: I think I thought a thing a lot of people think, which is that the baby grows inside the placenta.

MOLLY WEBSTER: I definitely thought balloon baby was inside of.

LULU MILLER: I mean, OK, I was pregnant, and I think I thought it was just, like, extra lining on my uterus.

HEATHER RADKE: But it's not. It's not even yours.

HARVEY KLIMAN: The placenta belongs to the embryo, to the fetus, to the baby.


HEATHER RADKE: So it's actually grown by the fetus, which means that every single one of us has had a placenta.

HARVEY KLIMAN: I was kind of like you. I literally had no idea what it did, what its purpose was.

BECCA BRESSLER: This is Harvey.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Harvey Kliman.

BECCA BRESSLER: He studies the placenta.

HARVEY KLIMAN: MD-Ph.D., physician scientist at Yale University.

BECCA BRESSLER: Where he has a cabinet of placentas...

HARVEY KLIMAN: We're sort of running out of room.

BECCA BRESSLER: ...Which we visited. We'll come back to that.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Kristen (ph), I think we need another cabinet.

BECCA BRESSLER: But before we do...

HEATHER RADKE: I'm interested in how you got interested in the placenta. Presumably, it wasn't because you got pregnant.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Serendipity.

BECCA BRESSLER: So about 40 years ago, Harvey's just gotten out of medical school.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And I'm now a resident at University of Pennsylvania. And I'm in a laboratory.

BECCA BRESSLER: Studying ovaries.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And in the lab, there was somebody else who was working on the placenta. And they were chopping up the placenta and homogenizing the placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: And these other scientists in the lab ended up with this thing called a gradient, where the different kinds of cells in the placenta were sort of separated out. They can look at them independently.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And they wanted me to take a picture of the gradient. Why? Well, on the side, I'm a photographer. I've actually done bar mitzvahs and weddings...

BECCA BRESSLER: Oh, my gosh.

HARVEY KLIMAN: ...And things like that. Yeah, I love - visual things, I think, is what interests me in general. And so I took a picture of the gradient. And I asked Jerry (ph), who was running the lab. I said, Jerry, would you mind if I looked at what they are? And he said, sure, go for it.

BECCA BRESSLER: And what Harvey saw...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Was something that no one had ever seen before.


BECCA BRESSLER: He saw these cells - sort of a bubbling cauldron of cells.

HARVEY KLIMAN: They were like amoeba.

BECCA BRESSLER: Later, he'd make movies of them.

HARVEY KLIMAN: They started moving around, and then they came together. They aggregated. Then the membranes broke down, and they fused to make these multinucleated giant cells.

BECCA BRESSLER: They were growing very aggressively in a way that surprised him.

HARVEY KLIMAN: I said that is super cool. What's going on here?

HEATHER RADKE: Eventually he figured out that what he was looking at were stem cells - placental stem cells. And over the next few decades, he and a bunch of other scientists would start to piece together the story of the placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: And that's the story we're going to tell you.

MOLLY WEBSTER: Cool. OK, I'm so excited. Educate me on this organ I have had and know nothing about.

HEATHER RADKE: All right. So before we start, we just want to say a note on the word mother. Not everyone who gets pregnant or has a baby identifies as a mother, but it's a word a lot of people use when talking about pregnancy, including some of our sources. And so we're using it in addition to more inclusive language like pregnant person and parent.


HARVEY KLIMAN: So let's start from the beginning. You have an egg. And then if there's sperm around, the sperm will fertilize that egg.

HEATHER RADKE: And then it divides.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Divides into two.

HEATHER RADKE: And then four.


HEATHER RADKE: And 16, et cetera, et cetera.

HARVEY KLIMAN: By the time it gets to about 32...

HEATHER RADKE: The cluster of cells sort of forms into two layers.

HARVEY KLIMAN: It's like a tennis ball now.

HEATHER RADKE: There's a little cluster of cells on the inside.

HARVEY KLIMAN: That will become the embryo. That will become the fetus. That will become the baby, those little inside group of cells.

HEATHER RADKE: But the cells on the outside...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Those cells will become the placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: So from the very first few days of pregnancy, these placental cells are wrapped around what's going to become the embryo, like a little blanket.

HEATHER RADKE: And as Harvey explained all this to us and he walked us deeper into the story of the placenta, we started to see that pregnancy isn't a peaceful nursery rhyme kind of a story about a pregnant person nurturing a fetus until it becomes a cute little baby. It's actually more like a struggle and not like a calm college debate. It's like a cage match, like a knock-down, drag-out boxing match or a tiny war maybe even. On one side is the pregnant person, and on the other side is the fetus. And in the middle - or maybe not, like, actually in the middle. More like, actually, like, in the corner, rubbing the shoulders of the fetus, is the placenta.

HARVEY KLIMAN: So what happens? Well...

LULU MILLER: OK. So Harvey says the first thing you have to understand is that that tiny embryo with its little baby placenta cells wrapped around it like a blanket - it is not welcome in the mother's body.

HARVEY KLIMAN: From the mother's point of view, this is immunologically foreign.

LULU MILLER: You know, the pregnancy is a little bit genetically the mom but also a little bit the dad.


LULU MILLER: Which, for the mother's body, is not normal.

HARVEY KLIMAN: If we took a piece of tissue from whoever the father was of a pregnancy and put it into the mother, she would reject it.

MELISSA WILSON: Right - because not-self shouldn't be there. Not-self is a virus. Not-self is a bacteria.

LULU MILLER: Melissa Wilson, geneticist at Arizona State.

MELISSA WILSON: We need to get rid of not-self.

HARVEY KLIMAN: It's a foreign invader.


LULU MILLER: And so if an embryo just waltzes into a uterus one day without a little placenta blanket around it, the mother's body would gather up a squad of white blood cells, send them out to find it, shred it apart and kill it.

HARVEY KLIMAN: So that's definitely a problem.



RUPERT GRINT: (As Ron Weasley) What is it?

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) Some kind of cloak.

BECCA BRESSLER: Before the mother's body even has a chance to attack the embryo, the placenta blanket hides it.


RUPERT GRINT: (As Ron Weasley) That's an invisibility cloak.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) I'm invisible?

HARVEY KLIMAN: The placenta is going to become invisible to the mother.



HARVEY KLIMAN: The mother literally doesn't even see that the pregnancy is there.

LULU MILLER: Mom's still at the bar.

BECCA BRESSLER: She sure is. OK. So for the first week or so of the pregnancy, the placenta is pretty much just hiding the embryo from the mother. But then...

HARVEY KLIMAN: The next problem that the placenta faces is nutrition.

BECCA BRESSLER: The embryo gets hungry, and the placenta is like, I've got to feed this thing. And this is when the battle lines really start to get drawn because, essentially, this war between the placenta and the pregnant person is a war that's about food. The placenta, Harvey says, has one mission.

HARVEY KLIMAN: To make the biggest baby possible - to suck as much nutrients out of the mother as possible.

BECCA BRESSLER: And the pregnant person's mission?

HARVEY KLIMAN: Not to die.

LULU MILLER: So the placenta is in the uterus looking around for food, and it does this thing, something kind of tricky, something that, when we heard about it, actually feels like it's skipping ahead nine months. Harvey says it produces this hormone.


LULU MILLER: Happens to be the hormone that activates pregnancy tests. But one of its other jobs is that it...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Causes the lining of the uterus to secrete a protein.

BECCA BRESSLER: That our friend Harvey likens to milk.






UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The vitality you got from milk lasts far longer than energy from other drinks.

HARVEY KLIMAN: The lining of the uterus makes milk for the embryo.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Time to get back to the refill.

HEATHER RADKE: That is wild.

LULU MILLER: Yeah. But this milk is like a snack for the placenta. What it really needs is blood. So at this point, about two weeks into the pregnancy, the placenta...


LULU MILLER: ...Goes on the offensive. By now, it's actually latched onto the side of the uterus. And at this point...

MELISSA WILSON: The placenta forms tendrils.

LULU MILLER: Like long skinny claws.

MELISSA WILSON: That actually try to invade in up through the uterus into the maternal body.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Into the blood vessels and attack the walls to open them up.

MELISSA WILSON: Like, I'm going to suck all your nutrients from you.

LULU MILLER: But the uterus stops them.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Basically putting up a brick wall - very dense tissue.

BECCA BRESSLER: To block those claws from getting in.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Now, the placenta doesn't give up easily.

LULU MILLER: It keeps digging.

BECCA BRESSLER: But then the uterus blocks it.

LULU MILLER: And what you start to see is this push and pull where the placenta keeps digging, digging, digging.

HARVEY KLIMAN: We're talking pretty aggressive here.

BECCA BRESSLER: And the uterus keeps blocking it, blocking it, blocking it.

HEATHER RADKE: Wait, wait, wait. Can I just ask, like, what - isn't this - like, isn't our whole point to carry on? Like, isn't that what evolution has built us to do? Why would this moment where it's about to happen be so combative?

BECCA BRESSLER: It's a really good question, and we will get to it after the break.






LULU MILLER: Radiolab - today we are telling the story of the placenta, a story which has revealed to us just how much pregnancy itself is like a war between the fetus and the parent's body. And what we were just getting around to was, why?

HEATHER RADKE: Right. So you all actually already answered this question on the show.



ROBERT KRULWICH: Well, this came as a total shock to me because after all, the...

HEATHER RADKE: So basically, the story we told then is that before placentas, all animals that would become mammals laid eggs. And an egg is a special little thing. It's a self-contained little package where the fetus has everything it needs to eat until it's ready to hatch. And all of its waste products stay inside the egg. And nothing comes in and nothing goes out until the animal is ready to leave its egg. But then...


ROBERT KRULWICH: Long, long ago some ancient mammal ancestor got a virus...

HEATHER RADKE: A virus infected in ancient proto-mammal and changed its DNA so that, eventually, many generations later, the eggshell transformed from a hard shell that exists outside the body to a sort of permeable layer that exists inside the body, which then becomes the placenta. And this was a huge advantage because it made it possible for the blood of the mother to actually feed the fetus. So it could get tons more nutrients. It wasn't limited to just, like, whatever yolk was inside the egg from the beginning.

MELISSA WILSON: And the individual was so reproductively successful that it spread across all eutherian mammals.

HEATHER RADKE: Geneticist Melissa Wilson again.

MELISSA WILSON: That's mind-blowing.

HEATHER RADKE: Because it made it possible to actually make a baby with a big, giant brain, like a human being or a dolphin. And that was great. But it also had this downside.

MELISSA WILSON: This wonky interaction between the pregnant individual and the placenta because the placenta is not the DNA of the pregnant individual. The placenta is the DNA of the offspring.

HEATHER RADKE: OK. And this is how we've ended up four weeks into what's basically a war between the mother and the placenta, with the placenta trying to suck blood out of the mother and the mother basically trying to box it out.

BECCA BRESSLER: And this fight...


BECCA BRESSLER: ...Is just getting started. Week 5 goes by, then Week 6, Week 7. The embryo's growing eyes, ears, bones.

HARVEY KLIMAN: It has a heart, kidneys, liver.

BECCA BRESSLER: Meanwhile, the placenta is digging, digging, digging, trying to get to the blood to get this thing more nutrients. But the placenta just can't break through. It's just like...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Hey, I need to be growing. I need more nutrients for my passenger, the fetus.

HEATHER RADKE: And the uterus to says no, get out. But...

HARVEY KLIMAN: The placenta has a couple tricks up its sleeve.

BECCA BRESSLER: Specifically, one trick, called...


BECCA BRESSLER: It's a protein that, Harvey says, creates a diversion.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Here's an analogy. If we wanted to rob a bank, I don't want the police to be near there. So what I'm going to do is blow up a grocery store, wait for all the police to sort of go around the grocery store. And while they're busy doing that, I'm going to sneak into the bank.

BECCA BRESSLER: So in the world of Harvey's analogy here, PP13 is blowing up the grocery store. The placenta produces it. It goes off to some other part of the uterus that the placenta isn't trying to invade. And there...

HARVEY KLIMAN: The PP13 attracts the entire police force, SWAT team, everybody of the mother's immune system.

BECCA BRESSLER: And while the whole police force is over there dealing with the PP13, the placenta's digging claws - bust through.



HARVEY KLIMAN: Blood fountains into the placenta. It's bathed in all these nutrients and goes, buffet time. Let me see what I need.

HEATHER RADKE: As the mother's blood starts rushing into the placenta, the fetus just starts growing and growing. It's the size of a grapefruit by week 15, a pineapple by 24, a watermelon by 36.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And that fetus is demanding more and more horsepower, more and more nutrients to actually grow.

HEATHER RADKE: So the placenta starts releasing more and more of this hormone...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Called human placental lactogen.

HEATHER RADKE: ...Which sort of hijacks the mother's digestive system.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Says, OK, you're eating. I get that. But none of that actually is for you. You're not going to get to store it. All those nutrients are going to stay in your blood so I, the placenta, can suck up those nutrients.

HEATHER RADKE: And all the while the placenta is gobbling up more and more of the mother's blood. And by the third trimester, Harvey says...

HARVEY KLIMAN: Twenty to 25% of all the blood flow of the mother is going into the placenta.

HEATHER RADKE: And this is where things can get dangerous for the mother.

HARVEY KLIMAN: If the placenta and the fetus together say, hey, I'm not getting enough blood, I'm just going to force her body to start pumping more blood into me, into the fountaining system. And this is a condition we call preeclampsia.

HEATHER RADKE: Preeclampsia is very, very scary. And it's basically when the mother's blood pressure spikes so high that she can actually die.


HEATHER RADKE: And it's really serious. It's one of the leading causes of maternal death. And I think it's easy to sort of think like blood - high blood pressure, you know, not such a big deal. But it's actually the placenta, you know, sucking so much blood out of the mother's body that she can't continue to survive.

LULU MILLER: And this can also go wrong in the other direction.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Mom, of course, doesn't want to die. She doesn't want the fetus to take all of her nutrients. But if she is successful and wins the battle, if you will, the placenta is too small. The fetus is too small, and the pregnancy may not survive.

LULU MILLER: But if neither side wins the war, then after nine months, give or take a few weeks, poof. You have a baby.


BECCA BRESSLER: And poof is exactly what it feels like.


BECCA BRESSLER: But the placenta is still in there. And so the placenta actually also kind of has to be born.

I'm getting the sense that the placenta may be underneath this blue cover.

LULU MILLER: Is that right?

HARVEY KLIMAN: Good guess.

BECCA BRESSLER: So we didn't actually see anyone give birth to a placenta, but Harvey did show us one in his lab.

HARVEY KLIMAN: All right. Are we ready for the moment?

BECCA BRESSLER: Harvey grabs the blue cloth, and he pulls it back.

LULU MILLER: Oh, my God.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And this is the placenta, which is in the standard Ziploc bag. That's what it's in right now.

BECCA BRESSLER: Oh, my God. I mean, it looks so - it looks very organ-y.

HARVEY KLIMAN: It's kind of bloody, isn't it?

LULU MILLER: It's so bloody.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And so I'm going to open the Ziploc bag.

BECCA BRESSLER: It's so baglike. It's sort of bluer than I thought.

LULU MILLER: It also looks like raw meat, like you would make into a hamburger or something.

BECCA BRESSLER: It is raw meat.

So I'm going to pick it up and see how heavy it is. So I grab the placenta.

It's kind of heavy. Like what? Like...

HARVEY KLIMAN: A normal term placenta's about 550 grams, which is just about a pound. It's about eight to nine inches in diameter.

BECCA BRESSLER: About as wide as a volleyball.

It's really weird. It's - OK. First of all, it's cold. Maybe slimy is the word. And it's got a lot of texture when you're in the beefy part. You can feel what I imagine are the veins, and it has like - it's not all one texture. It's, like, hard in spots and soft in spots. It feels sort of, like, crazy.

LULU MILLER: And then Harvey told us how the placenta, this little alien invader and all its thirsty veins and tendrils and hooks, how it leaves the body.

HARVEY KLIMAN: I think this is another miracle.

LULU MILLER: So the baby goes first, and...

HARVEY KLIMAN: The uterus is elastic and has, you know, muscle. So it contracts down, and it's that contracting down that actually shears the placenta off the lining of the uterus. And the placenta gets delivered.

LULU MILLER: And then...

HARVEY KLIMAN: All those blood vessels that have been supplying blood to the placenta for all those weeks and months have to close down.

LULU MILLER: And they do, like, immediately. There's this river of blood fountaining into the placenta that just shuts off.


BECCA BRESSLER: And what's kind of cool is that it leaves no scar. It's, like, one of the only things like this in the body, maybe the only thing like this, where something sort of gets sheared off and there's no - like, no mark remains.

HEATHER RADKE: Oh, that just makes me think that while, from the outside, it feels like such a push and pull and, like, they're competing against each other, that, like, in the scarlessness, there is, like, a camaraderie and a peace of sorts.

LULU MILLER: Yeah. In some sense, I think of it as, like, the OG parent for the baby. Its one mission is to help that embryo grow into a healthy fetus and deliver a baby. And it has this - it's developed this sort of, like, incredible way of somehow making sure all of its needs are met in such a selfless sort of way that I've started seeing it as the first parent.

BECCA BRESSLER: Yeah. I don't know. It's sort of - I feel like I'm going to cry. It feels sort of like, here's this thing. This was somebody's baby's life thing. I don't know.

HEATHER RADKE: But so OK. Placenta comes out. It releases. It leaves no trace. It leaves no scar. It knows it's time to let those grappling hooks go, comes out. And then what's the end of the journey?

LULU MILLER: I mean, I guess it goes in the garbage most of the time.

I feel really sad that I can't meet mine. I think once, you know, all that it's done for you, I just wish I could meet it.

HARVEY KLIMAN: And thank it.

LULU MILLER: Yeah. And hold it.

HARVEY KLIMAN: Thank you, placenta, for making me survive and be alive.

LULU MILLER: Put it in my closet. I don't know.

BECCA BRESSLER: But also, a lot of people don't throw it away.

TINA DELISLE: Only recently are we beginning to see that scientific discourse is taking this - the placenta seriously.

BECCA BRESSLER: This is Tina Delisle. She's a professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and she's writing a book about the placenta.

TINA DELISLE: Indigenous people were understanding the placenta for a long time.

BECCA BRESSLER: She explained to us that this dawning we were having that the placenta is kind of like a parent, it's something that a lot of people had already been thinking about the placenta for a really long time.

TINA DELISLE: In native cultures, the placenta is a friend, a companion, grandmother.

BECCA BRESSLER: And when you think about the placenta that way...

TINA DELISLE: ...As a relation, they're going to treat it very differently. And that explains why, throughout a lot of native cultures, the emphasis is on proper burial of the placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: Tina explained that you see this practice of burying the placenta all over the world.

TINA DELISLE: In various African cultures, in Native American culture.


TINA DELISLE: French Polynesia, in Aotearoa.



BECCA BRESSLER: And where she's from.

TINA DELISLE: Born and raised in Guahan in the Marianas - for Chamorros...

BECCA BRESSLER: The indigenous people of Guam.

TINA DELISLE: ...When you bury the placenta or the (non-English language spoken), it ensures that baby's safety, you know. Even examples like, when they're young and they're learning how to walk, it protects them so they don't fall down. It was a way of protecting children into adulthood.

HEATHER RADKE: OK. So you're saying that the placenta isn't just looking after the well-being of the child when it's in the womb but also into adulthood.

TINA DELISLE: Yeah. But also for the well-being of the land because when you plant the placenta, it connects people to place. The idea is that if someone moves away, they always remember, my placenta is buried there, and they will take care of that land.

BECCA BRESSLER: Did you bury your kids' placentas?

TINA DELISLE: No. I had inquired about the possibility of taking home the placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: This was 2006. Tina was living in Michigan.

TINA DELISLE: When I was there, I was told that - and when I say there, this is when, you know, (laughter) - in the middle of labor - and I was told that they wouldn't let me take home my baby's placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: And why is that? Like, why wouldn't they let you?

TINA DELISLE: Because of the law. And I was told that I'd have to go to court to get that. It would be really difficult.

BECCA BRESSLER: How did that make you feel when you heard that?

TINA DELISLE: You know, I felt really bad about that. I had my partner, my husband, take pictures and video of the placenta, right? I was like, OK, I need something to (laughter) remember my baby's placenta with, right?

HEATHER RADKE: But things have changed some since Tina gave birth in 2006. In states like Hawaii and Texas and Oregon, now you can legally take your baby's placenta home with you.

TINA DELISLE: The only consolation I had really was maybe this'll be different next time around for my daughters.


BECCA BRESSLER: And this placenta was delivered yesterday?

HARVEY KLIMAN: Monday, actually - Monday, late afternoon.



HEATHER RADKE: Monday, late afternoon?

HARVEY KLIMAN: So there is a little cute baby someplace who is happy and alive because of this placenta.

BECCA BRESSLER: We got to send that family this (laughter) podcast. I'm sure we can't know who they are - HIPAA.

HARVEY KLIMAN: We can't know who they are. That's part of the...


HARVEY KLIMAN: ...Reason we have the placenta.

HEATHER RADKE: But let's thank them anyway...

BECCA BRESSLER: Yes. Thank you.

HEATHER RADKE: ...In a bit more spiritual way.


HARVEY KLIMAN: Yes. We will thank them spiritually.


LULU MILLER: This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Becca Bressler and produced by Becca Bressler and Pat Walters, with help from Matt Kielty and Maria Paz Gutierrez. Special thanks to Diana Bianchi, Julia Katz, Sam Behjati, Celia Bardwell-Jones and Hannah Ingraham. Special thanks also to my placenta for getting me here. Thanks. Thanks to the placentas of all the people who made this program. Thanks for building such talented humans. And finally, to the placenta that made you, listener - thanks for making such a dorky human who likes our program. We really appreciate it.

All right. That'll do it. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You want half of a cookie?


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You have to do what Mommy says.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Then you to repeat what I say, OK?

HANNAH: Right.


HANNAH: RADIOLAB was created by Jad Abumrad and by Soren Wheeler - Lulu Miller, Latif Nasser, our co-host. And Suzie Lechtenberg...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...Is our executive producer.

HANNAH: ...Producer - is it end?


HANNAH: Dylan Keefe, director of sound design - is it the end?


HANNAH: Our staff includes Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, Becca Bressler, Rachael...


HANNAH: Cusick.


HANNAH: I can't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You're almost done. You're almost done. Come on - W.



HANNAH: (Whining) Fortuna.


HANNAH: David Gebel, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen, Alex Neason, Sarah Qari, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster, with help from Shima Oliaee, Sarah Sandbach, Carin Leong - our fact-checkers are Diane Kelly, Emily Krieger - is it the end?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter) Good job, good job.

HANNAH: Is it the end?


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