Until only recently, most parents had never heard of cord blood banking. Today, many more are aware of this process but still aren’t exactly sure what is involved. As the life-saving benefits of stem cells become more widely known, it is important that the word gets out about cord blood banking. Here’s what you need to know.
What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking is a very simple process, the results of which can eventually save someone’s life. A cord blood bank, like a regular blood bank, is a facility that stores blood for future use. However, cord blood banks exclusively store umbilical cord blood. There are both private and public cord blood banks operating in the US.
Public cord blood banks store umbilical cord blood that is then available to the medical profession to help any patient that has an illness treatable with stem cells contained within cord blood. These public banks are supported by the medical community and are subject to very strict regulations. Because of these guidelines, a pregnant woman should make arrangements well in advance as there may be screening procedures required. However, it is free to donate.
The private cord blood banks are available to parents who wish to store their child’s umbilical cord blood as a form of insurance just in case it is required to treat the child or another family member at a later date. Private banks are not free to use: it generally costs up to $2,000 to collect the blood, and there will be additional fees for long-term storage.
Main benefits of cord blood banking
Umbilical cord blood is a vital substance that scientists and doctors are only just beginning to understand. The blood is rich in stem cells, which have the amazing ability to develop into almost any other type of cell within the body – and an exact genetic match (although desirable) is not required for the cells to be effective. Studies have shown that stem cells are able to help repair organs, tissues, and blood vessels and treat over 80 life-threatening diseases, including several types of cancer, anemia, and genetic disorders.
Several recent studies have shown that umbilical cord blood has an advantage over bone marrow transplantation, specifically in children. This may be because this blood does not require an exact match, which can be hard to come by when seeking a bone marrow transplant.
The process involved
The process of collecting and banking cord blood is really quite simple. Neither the mother nor the child is harmed or is even physically aware of the process as it is taking place, as it does not interfere with the birthing process in any way. Once the baby is born and the afterbirth is delivered, the cord is clamped and cut. It is at this time that the doctors or nurses will harvest the umbilical cord blood from the section of the cord still attached to the placenta. In all, between three and five ounces are collected in just a few moments. Once the blood is collected, it is shipped to the cord blood bank for testing, processing, and freezing. It can be stored for up to 25 years.
Parents hoping to donate their child’s umbilical cord blood, or to bank it for future use, must do a little research first. Some hospitals are affiliated with cord blood banks while others are not, so parents should be proactive. If private banking is the goal, it is a good idea to read as many cord blood bank company reviews as possible to ensure that the right choice is made.