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Should Parents Consider Cord Blood Banking?

Banking umbilical cord blood can benefit children as they grow.Expectant parents can be overwhelmed with everything that goes into preparing for a new child. It’s important to understand your options ahead of time. Donating cord blood can be easily achieved and potentially help others.

What is Cord Blood?

Cord blood is simply the left inside the umbilical cord and placenta after your baby is born. Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells which are important in treating certain diseases. Unlike most other cells in the body, hematopoietic stem cells have the ability to mature into different types of blood cells within the body.

Benefits of Blood Cord Banking

There are numerous reasons expectant parents may want to choose to collect and store cord blood. Both bone marrow and cord blood have benefits, namely the potential to contain life-saving hematopoietic stem cells.

Cord blood transplants have helped over 30,000 people with the correction of inborn errors such as metabolism, hematopoietic malignancies and genetic disorders both in the blood and immune system.

Currently, it is also being studied for regenerative medicine and infectious diseases.

Today we’ll take a look at a few reasons cord blood is more advantageous than receiving hematopoietic stem cells than from bone marrow.

  • More matches available. Stem cells from cord blood are more versatile and can be given to a wider range of people than those that come from bone marrow.
  • Can be stored. Unlike bone marrow that needs to be used right away, cord blood can be frozen and store for future use.
  • Helps to strengthen the immune system. Cord blood has been shown to strengthen the immune system for patients going through cancer treatment. Bone marrow has not.
  • Less painful for the donor. Donating cord blood is less risky and less painful than donating bone marrow.
  • Less chance of rejection. Bone marrow has a larger chance of being rejected by the recipient than cord blood.

What Should You Consider Before Donating?

There are two types of facilities that can collect and store umbilical cord blood; public and private. When considering blood cord banking, talk to your OB/GYN or midwife about the differences between the two so you can make an informed decision.

Both public and private blood banks are required to follow the same rigorous screenings and infectious disease testing meeting the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug administration.

Here are some of the differences between each to give you an idea of what might be right for you.

Public Cord Blood Banks

The first public cord blood bank was established in 1991, however, now there are now many spread throughout the US that collect and store cord blood free of charge. Many are funded through government grants, public donations, and compensation for cord units used for transplant.

Public blood banks primarily store blood for use for anyone; related or not. However, if you have a family member who has a disease that could potentially be treated with a transplant, some public banks will store that blood for free as a directed donation.

Because ethnic minorities are not as well represented in cord blood banks, donating to one can increase the chance of all ethnic groups finding a match.

Private Cord Blood Banks

Private cord blood banks were not established until 2005 and are widely marketed for ‘biological insurance.’ Private or family banks are funded through processing and annual storage fees. Before you go into labor, you’ll be asked to sign a contract for the collection, processing, and storage.

If you plan to store your cord blood for your baby later in life or directed donation for a family member or sibling, you may want to think about a private bank.

It should be noted, however, that the scientific evidence is lacking when it comes to cord blood helping the same individual. In fact, stored blood cannot be used to treat the same person in many instances because most conditions already exist in his or her own cells which is why biological insurance is often not recommended.

How Does Blood Cord Banking Work?

Once you’ve chosen whether you’d like to donate to a public or private blood bank, you’ll need to let your doctor know as soon as possible. Collecting cord blood is not routine obstetric care or medically indicated.

Many hospitals have collection kits on-hand but on occasion, it can take up to 6 weeks for the hospital to receive one from the bank if an order needs to be placed.

Blood can be collected before or after the placenta is removed. The fresher the blood is the better. Cord blood is collected by puncturing the umbilical vein with a needle and gravity fed to a bag. Even with 40mL of blood needed to ensure there are enough blood cells for transplantation, the process generally takes around 10 minutes.

After blood is collected it will be ‘typed’ and tracked for quick delivery the moment someone is in need of it.

Keep in mind, there are some circumstances during labor or delivery that can prevent the collection of enough cord blood.

Your OB/GYN will not compromise the obstetric or neonatal care to obtain cord blood. Nor should the collection of cord blood alter the routine practice or timing of the umbilical cord clamping.

Final Thoughts

Talk to your doctor to learn more about understanding your options when it comes to donating cord blood. Blood cord banking is not a routine procedure in obstetric or neonatal care, so it’s imperative that you let your OB/GYN know before you go into labor if you decide to donate.

Don’t hesitate to call with any further questions you may have or schedule an appointment regarding blood cord banking. Education is key, and our staff is always happy to help provide knowledgeable advice.