Pregnant Now or Soon? All About Cord Blood Banking
If you’re expecting or planning on becoming pregnant, you know that expectant parents are faced with endless choices and decisions. From fun choices like paint color for your nursery to important, and sometimes frightening, medical decisions, pregnancy and childbirth are full of options. Take cord blood banking, for example. Did you know that parents have the option of donating or saving the stem-cell rich blood found in the placenta and umbilical cord? Keep reading to find out more about this process, including information on common collection and storage practices.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is a process categorized by the collection and storage of blood found in a newborn’s umbilical cord, and placenta. Cord blood is collected right after birth, during a quick and painless procedure performed in the delivery room. During collection, a medical provider inserts a needle into the umbilical vein where the cord is attached to the placenta. One to five ounces of blood are collected, and neither mother or baby are hurt or affected in any way. Collection typically takes less than ten minutes, and parents who opt for cord blood banking or donation are often unaware that the procedure is taking place.
Once collected, the cord blood is sent to a storage facility. Here, it will be processed, tested and, if deemed acceptable, cryogenically frozen and preserved. Biological storage facilities like Pacific BioStorage keep materials safe by monitoring freezer temperatures, enabling alarms and taking other security measures.
Also, there are two types of storage options, as explained below:
- Public storage. Public storage banks preserve cord blood for research and public use. There is typically no fee for parents to donate cord blood to public facilities; however, it’s important to note that, once donated, parents will no longer have access to their child’s cord blood. On the plus side, these donations are used to further stem-cell research, as well as to potentially save the lives of other babies, children, and adults.
- Private storage. Blood stored in a private facility can be saved for future use by parents, their children, and other family members. Typically, private storage is used by families with a history of genetic illnesses or other diseases. Private cord blood banking can be costly, but many families find the peace of mind to be worth the price tag.
Why Is Cord Blood So Important?
The collection and storage of cord blood is a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, up until the 1970s, umbilical cords and placenta were discarded without a thought, immediately after birth. However, researchers soon discovered that cord blood, like bone marrow, is rich in blood-forming stem cells. Because of their ability to mature into other types of cells, stem cells can be used to treat a number of diseases, and can also help repair blood vessels, organs, tissues, and even immune systems. The immaturity of cord blood stem cells also makes it easier to match transplant donors and recipients: since cord blood cells haven’t yet learned how to attack foreign substances, they’re less likely to reject transplant organs, blood, and tissues.
While cord blood cells are currently being used to treat a host of conditions, the future will likely see many more uses for stem cells and cord blood. Countless trials are underway, and researchers are constantly discovering new ways to use these and other types of genetic materials.
If you’d like to do your part in furthering stem cell research, or if you’d like to save your cord blood for future family use, talk to your healthcare provider about the collection and storage process.