Freezing Cord Blood
Until a few years ago, cord blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord was discarded along with the placenta. However, doctors and scientists have discovered that the stem cells in the cord blood are of enormous value health-wise and entire industries in stem cell research, cord blood donation and freezing have emerged. Families are storing cord blood in case of a medical emergency with their child or siblings. Others are donating cord blood to agencies such as the American Red Cross, who might use it for bone marrow matches and other medical procedures.
Although stem cell research is still a controversial subject, many Americans are quietly storing cord blood and banking on research finding cures and fixes for many common diseases. Cord blood may have uses in the future well beyond stem cell transplants. New medical technology may utilize cord stem cells to rebuild cardiac tissue, repair damage due to stroke or spinal cord injuries and reverse the effects of such diseases as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s.
Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord immediately after a baby’s birth, but generally before the placenta has been delivered. The moment of delivery is the only opportunity to harvest a newborn’s stem cells. There is absolutely no pain or risk to the mother or child during the collection process since the blood is taken from the cord once it has been clamped and cut. Collection is safe for both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. Cells taken from a newborn are a perfect match for the baby in his or her lifetime. Alternatively, bone marrow collection is an invasive procedure and requires general anesthesia with its inherent risks.
Many cord blood companies provide special kits to collect the cord blood, along with a sample of the mother’s blood. Some healthcare providers charge a fee for performing this service. It is best to discuss the procedure ahead of time. Pre-arrangements must be made with the blood storage facility or laboratory. Once the cord blood is collected, it is sent via courier to the storage facility of choice, or to a blood donor agency. Families pay a yearly fee to store the cord blood and often there is no fee to retrieve the cells, should they ever be needed. Cord blood storage is a sort of insurance policy, though one which no family ever hopes to cash in on.
Check with your healthcare professional regarding performance of this service. For more information on cord blood storage, click here:
Meaghan Clark is the Web Editor for Charlotte Parent Magazine