Cord Blood Banking
Extensive studies in the field of medical science have revealed that stem cells have an exceptional ability to divide ceaselessly and differentiate into different types of cells present in the body. Nowadays, doctors are using these stem cells to treat life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anaemia, oeteopetrosis, etc.
Until recently, bone marrow and embryos were considered to be the only viable sources of stem cells. However, now it is well known that cord blood, derived from the umbilical cord and placenta, is also a valuable resource of stem cells. There is practically no difference between cord blood stem cells and those stem cells derived from the bone marrow or fertilized eggs. Plus, these stem cells can easily be harvested shortly after your child’s birth and be used to treat more than 75 different diseases and disorders.
Considering the growing significance of cord blood stem cells, many parents are opting for cord blood banking.
Why Stem Cells?
The sole purpose of the millions of stem cells present in our body is to divide ad infinitum and restock other cells in the blood and immune system. In doing so, stem cells act together as a repair system for our body. In a healthy body, stem cells continue to work relentlessly, but when diseases like leukemia attack the body, the stem cells are also damaged, and they lose their ability to divide and differentiate into other types of body cells. Under such circumstances, new stem cells are required.
Until recently, bone marrow transplant was considered to be the only source of new stem cells. However, advanced studies and researches in the field of medical science have found yet another source of stem cells, umbilical cord blood. Up till now, umbilical cord and placenta were discarded soon after the birth of a baby. Owing to the increasing significance of the stem cells, however, nowadays cord blood stem cells are usually retrieved from the umbilical cord and placenta, and stored for future use. Check out our article on Why Store Cord Blood to find out more.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is a simple procedure in which the blood from the umbilical cord and placenta are retrieved soon after the birth of a baby and preserved for future use at a cord blood bank. To collect the blood, which contains those important stem cells, your health care provider will insert a needle into the umbilical allowing the blood to drain into a collection bag. Alternatively, your cord blood bank may provide a syringe that your health care provider will use for collection.
The entire procedure happens very quickly; collection of the blood shouldn’t take more than five minutes. And since it is done after the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, this process in no way interferes with you and your newborn. Find out more about how to prepare for birth and collecting cord blood and about how the cord blood is stored and about cord freezing.
Once the blood is collected, it will be sent to the cord blood bank, either private or public, that you have chosen.
Go Public or Stay Private?
The difference lies in the facility where the cord blood is preserved. You have the option to either donate your baby’s cord blood to a public cord blood bank or preserve it in a private cord blood bank. The collection, processing and storage procedure is the same in both the types of banks. However, where they differ is in the area of accessibility and price.
Public cord blood banks do not charge a fee for the storage of cord blood, but your child’s cord blood will not be accessible to you because the decision of how to use the cord blood is made by solely the bank authorities. Publicly stored cord blood is used in two ways, first for research purposes, and second given to patients who require it immediately for stem cell transplant therapy. Therefore, should you or someone from your family need your child’s stem cells, it is unlikely that you will be able to obtain it.
Private cord blood banks, on the other hand, do charge a fee for processing and storing cord blood, but privately stored cord blood will remain fully accessible to you. This means that you can obtain your child’s cord blood from the bank whenever you require it. Many parents prefer this option as it offers them and their families a form of life insurance should a member of the family ever get seriously ill.
Additionally, many public banks are affiliated with only certain hospitals. If you do not give birth in one of these hospitals, or live in an area that public banks don’t service, this type of banking will not be an option for you. Private banks, however, typically are able collect blood from any hospital in any area. This is because the cost of shipping the cord blood is usually covered in your initial fees to the bank. Learn more about how to choose a cord blood bank, about your banking options, and how to decide to donate the cord blood or store it for private use. Also find out more about the minuses of cord blood banking.
Is Cord Blood Storage Better than Donation?
The choice of donating your child’s cord blood or getting it privately stored lies solely upon you. However, if you have a family history of diseases like leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, severe anaemia or any other type of blood or genetic disorder, then it is advisable to get your baby’s cord blood preserved in a private cord blood bank.
Parents belonging to American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Black and African American, Hispanic, Latino, and Native Hawaiian races should also opt for private storage because it is usually difficult to find a perfect matching donor.
If no such problems exist, and you cannot foresee such a problem arising in the future, then you may prefer to donate your child’s stem cells. Be sure to consider all the pros and cons of both types of banking before making your final decision, though.
Does Cord Blood Banking Require any Preparations?
If you are seriously interested in cord blood banking, then you should contact an appropriate cord blood bank (public or private) and inform your doctor about your decision by the 34th week of your pregnancy.
Selecting a cord blood bank is not a trivial task. You will have to consider several factors such as accreditation, financial stability, type of technology used for storage, etc. With private cord blood banks the major issue is the price. Hence, it is essential to allocate adequate time to know as much about cord blood banking and cord blood bank as possible.
Cord blood banking is a relatively new concept. It is a good idea to discuss this issue thoroughly with your health care provider to learn more about eligibility criteria, and private or public cord blood banks.