There are so many things to think about when you have a child. One of them is the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord. Cord blood banking is the process of collecting cord blood and extracting and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other cells of the immune system for potential future medical use. In Europe and other parts of the world, cord blood banking is more often referred to as stem cell banking. Banking cord blood is designed more to collect the blood-forming stem cells and not the actual blood cells themselves.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
The blood that remains in the umbilical cord after birth is rich in newborn stem cells, and additional stem cells can be found in the tissue of the umbilical cord and placenta. Once the baby is born, and even if cord clamping is delayed, it is possible to collect these cells and bank them in cryogenic storage. They can treat cancer, blood diseases like anemia, and some immune system disorders, which disrupt your body’s ability to defend itself. The fluid is easy to collect and has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow. Stem cells from cord blood rarely carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
How Do You Get It?
If you want the blood stored, after the birth, your obstetrician or the staff at the hospital where you give birth clamps the umbilical cord in two places, about 10 inches apart, and cuts the cord, separating the mother from the baby. Then they insert a needle and collect at least 40 milliliters of blood from the cord. The blood is sealed in a bag and sent to a lab or cord blood bank for testing and storage. The process only takes a few minutes and is painless for the mother and baby. Not all hospitals offer this service. Some charge a separate fee that may or may not be covered by insurance.
Where Is It Stored?
- Cord blood can be frozen and stored. It is ready for anyone who needs it.
- Cord blood is kept in one of two types of banks: public or private. They differ in important ways that may affect your choice.
- Public cord blood banks store cord blood for allogenic transplants. They do not charge to store cord blood. The stem cells in the donated cord blood can be used by anyone who matches.
- Some public banks will store cord blood for directed donation if you have a family member who has a disease that could potentially be treated with stem cells.
- Private or family banks store cord blood for autologous use or directed donation for a family member. Private banks charge a yearly fee for storage.
- Blood stored in a private bank must meet the same standards as blood stored in a public bank.
- If you have a family member with a disorder that may potentially be treated with stem cells, some private banks will store the cord blood free of charge.
Points to remember while making a decision
- If you want to save the cord blood, you must arrange for it ahead of time. It is not a decision you can make at the last minute.
- Doctors do not recommend that you bank cord blood on the slight chance that your baby will need stem cells someday. If your baby were to need stem cells, he or she would probably need stem cells from someone else rather than his or her own stem cells.
- Donating to a public cord blood bank may provide life-saving stem cells to a patient in need. You probably won’t be able to use the blood, but it could be used for research or another child.
- As most parents would like to bank their babies’ cord blood to help safeguard their families, it is often the cost of cord blood banking that is the one reason why they do not.
- However, private cord blood banking is encouraged if you or a family member have an existing disease that’s treated using stem cells.