Pregnancy involves a lot of planning. Developing a birth plan, selecting a pediatrician, arranging child care… With so many things to prepare, it’s understandable when mothers put less urgent matters aside. Many put blood cord preservation or cord blood banking on their “later” list. Many more never heard of the term.
You’re not alone.
According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, 95% of all newborn cord blood is discarded in the United States. It’s important to keep in mind you only have one opportunity to collect it: immediately after your child’s birth. This means parents must consider and plan for cord blood banking before delivery.
To help you better understand this potentially life-saving procedure, Women’s Care Florida has put together a Q&A with some of its most essential information. In addition, we encourage you to click here to schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at WCF.
What is cord blood?
Cord blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord after birth contains stem cells. If collected and stored properly, it can be used to treat certain illnesses.
Why preserve cord blood?
Stem cells help the body repair and replace other cells. Once divided, stem cells have the ability to become many different types of cells. When an individual needs or cannot produce healthy cells, a stem cell transplant can help them. Bone marrow produces most stem cells. However, its production can easily be affected by illnesses or treatments.
Cord blood also contains stem cells. A stem cell transplant from cord blood instead of bone marrow works just as well. The March of Dimes offers a number of possible benefits of using stem cells from cord blood versus bone marrow. These include:
- Easier collection
- More patient matches
- Less processing time
- Higher transplant success
What illnesses can be treated with blood cord banking?
According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, more than 80 diseases are treated with cord blood stem cells. Diseases include cancers, blood disorders, genetic and metabolic diseases. Life-threatening conditions such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, and Hurl-er syndrome have all seen successful treatment with stem cell transplants.
Benefits of Cord Blood Banking
Current research attempts to determine cord blood’s effectiveness in the treatment of neurological disorders such as:
- Autism and cerebral palsy
- Auto-immune disorders such as Crohn’s disease and type-1 diabetes
- Cardiovascular conditions such as myocardial infarction and cardiomyopathy
- Gene therapy for inherited disorders such as HIV
- Orthopedic conditions such as knee cartilage repair
Is the collection painful or dangerous to my baby?
Since birth involves severing the placenta and umbilical cord, the baby no longer has a use for them. Therefore, doctors typically discard them. If you choose blood cord banking, providers easily and painlessly collect the blood. Additionally, it does not matter if you give birth vaginally or via cesarean.
What happens to the cord blood after collection?
That depends. If you choose to preserve your baby’s cord blood, you have two storage options:
- Donate it to a public cord blood bank
- Store it privately
Both have unique considerations.
A public cord blood bank allows you to donate your cord blood — free of charge — to either help others or be used in research. Although you may not use the donated blood, it will become available for the match via a national donor program. According to Be the Match, expecting mothers need to make donation arrangements between the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy. You can find a list of participating hospitals here.
A family cord blood bank or private bank store your baby’s cord blood so that you can have immediate access to it if needed. Although fees vary by bank, initial costs run between $850 — $3,000 with yearly fees averaging $150 per year.
Are there other considerations?
The decision to preserve the cord blood is a personal one. You should take your family’s health history into consideration and whether cord blood could help a possible condition. It should be noted, however, the chance that you or your baby will need the privately stored cord blood is 1 in 2,700. Still, many families determine the possible benefit is worth the cost.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about cord blood preservation, we encourage you to click here to schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at Women’s Care Florida.