What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that is in your baby’s umbilical cord, and this blood has stem cells in it that can grow into a variety of organs, vessels, and tissues. Cord blood stem cells are used in clinical trials that can help people with brain injury, autism, and other medical conditions. The cells are already well-established in treating many different diseases. The blood from your baby’s cord can be collected when he or she is born, and stored to be used later.
What is cord banking?
When your baby is born, the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta is collected and stored for future use. When it comes to storing the cord blood, you can either donate it to a public cord blood bank, or pay to have it stored at a private blood bank so you can use it later, if needed.
How is the cord blood collected?
The blood is collected right after the baby is born. The cord is clamped and cut like normal, and then the doctor (or midwife) inserts a needle into the vein on the cord on the side that is still attached to the placenta. The blood is drained into a bag, usually between one and five ounces (29 to 148 ml). Overall, the process takes under 10 minutes.
Can we delay cutting the cord?
You can, but if you wait too long, the blood will start to clot and then it won’t be good for collecting.
To the bank
The blood will be shipped to the cord blood bank of your choice. There, it’s tested, processed, and preserved by freezing for long-term storage.
Benefits of cord blood banking
Cord blood is full of blood stem cells, which are the building blocks of the immune system and blood. They can develop into other types of cells, so they are used to repair organs, tissues, and blood vessels. Stem cells are found in other places, too, but the richest source for harvesting is in cord blood.
One example of when cord blood can be used is if treatment for leukemia fails or if the person’s leukemia comes back. Doctors can do a stem cell transplant to help create a new immune system for the patient. This gives him or her a better chance to recover.
The reason cord blood stem cells is used is because they are immature and it is easier to match patients with cord blood since the stem cells haven’t learned to attack foreign substances. This means the stem cells are less likely to reject the transfusion than those from other sources of stem cells.
Public or private cord blood banks?
Public cord blood banking is free and it makes the stem cells available to anyone who needs them. The more people who donate to public banks will increase the diversity and number of cord blood units that are available for patients worldwide.
Private cord blood banking does carry with it collection and storage costs, and in many cases, you will never need to use the banked cord blood. This makes it unavailable to other people. Of course, should anyone in your family need that cord blood, it will be there and available for use. One major situation where you would want to choose private storage is if you don’t know your child’s medical background, like if the baby was adopted or conceived with a donor egg or sperm. Another reason to choose private storage is if the infant has a sibling with a condition that is treatable with cord blood transplantation.