For many expectant families, deciding whether or not to bank their newborn’s cord blood is an important part of preparing for the arrival of a new baby. Those that are on the fence about this decision should have all the facts put before them before making a choice.
What are stem cell bank treatments?
When a baby is delivered the mother’s body eventually releases the placenta, the organ that provides oxygen and nutrition to the baby while in utero. The blood contained in the placenta and attached umbilical cord contains valuable stem cells, which can be beneficial in a variety of medical treatments. The cord blood can be collected and stored after birth in a process that takes just a few minutes and is completely painless for the mom and her newborn.
What are stem cells used for?
Until just a few years ago, the placenta and umbilical cord were discarded as medical waste. However, in the 1970s, researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood contains the same kind of stem cells that are present in bone marrow. Since collecting umbilical cord blood is much less painful and invasive than extracting bone marrow, doctors began to recommend cord blood banking as a viable alternative. As a result, growing numbers of new parents are choosing to extract stem cell-rich blood from the umbilical cord and placenta with the intention of storing it for future use or donation.
Cord blood stem cells can be used to treat certain kinds of leukemia and lymphoma, severe sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia and serious autoimmune disorders.
The research into the usefulness and long-term effectiveness of stored cord blood is ongoing, and doctors and scientists are making new discoveries all the time. For many physicians, the pros of banking a baby’s cord blood far outweigh the cons, and many researchers consider cord blood banking to be an acceptable alternative to bone marrow transplants.
Who can benefit from stem cell treatments?
The chances of a baby someday needing his or her own cord blood to treat an illness are low, however, banked cord blood can often provide life-saving treatment for siblings or other close family members who are suffering from chronic illness or disease. Another option for parents is to donate their baby’s cord blood to a genetically compatible recipient in need; similar to organ donation.
Planning for cord blood banking
The decision to bank cord blood is an important one and deserves thorough consideration. The process of collecting cord blood is not routine in hospitals or birthing centers, so parents need to plan well ahead of time in order to ensure that their care providers are aware of their wishes on delivery day.
There are several different options available for storing cord blood. Most depend on the length of storage time and type of facility; costs can vary widely. There are often annual maintenance fees, collection fees, courier fees and processing fees, as well.
Making the decision
Clearly, cord blood banking is not a decision to be taken lightly - and certainly is not one to be made at the last minute. Each family must decide if cord blood banking is right for them by carefully weighing the pros and cons.