What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is the collection & storage of a newborn baby’s umbilical cord after birth.
The decision to bank cord blood needs to be made during pregnancy, as arrangements must be in place ahead of the birth to collect the newborn baby’s umbilical cord just after delivery.
Cord blood is collected, processed, tested and then frozen in liquid nitrogen to preserve it, so theoretically, it can last forever.
Cord Blood Banks
Most often, cord blood is donated to public cord blood banks and treated similarly to normal blood donations – it is stored for anyone who needs it and collected at no charge to the parents.
Cord blood can also be stored at private banks for personal use by the family.
Private banks require upfront collection fees and ongoing storage payments.
Given the costs, private banks are less often considered for families who want to keep cord blood in case their child or family member later develops a disease that requires a stem cell transplant for treatment, as the chances of ever using the cord blood are slim.
However, science is constantly advancing, so the potential uses of privately saved cord blood are not fully known.
Once cord blood is donated to a public bank, parents no longer have the ability to later reclaim the sample for future use.
Cord Blood Banking – Benefits
Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, which could be used for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants (also known as bone marrow transplants).
The cord blood is used in life-saving procedures for children, as typically there are enough stem cells to transplant into someone weighing less than 100 pounds.
Stem cells have been used already to treat leukemia and other cancers, immune disorders, and even Type 1 diabetes.
Cord Blood Banking – Concerns
Collecting cord blood is a quick process, but it needs to be done during a very specific window of time – within about 15 minutes of baby’s birth.
During this time, before the cord is clamped, the placenta continues to pump oxygen-rich blood into the newborn baby through the umbilical cord.
The doctor or other health care provider should be sensitive not to deprive baby of this extra blood in favor of rushing to save the umbilical cord.
Additionally, not all of the collections are even suitable for storage, for example, after testing it may be determined that there are not enough stem cells to keep.
Donations to public banks can also be used for stem cell research, which may make some parents uncomfortable.
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