When your baby is born, you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood.
The blood in your baby’s umbilical cord contains stem cells.
These are a special type of cell that has the capability of developing into any number of different types of cells.
Our cells lose this ability as we grow up. In adults, only stem cells in our bone marrow retain some of this capability, and the stem cells in our bone marrow can only produce blood cells or stem cells that produce blood cells.
Stem cells have the capability of treating more than 40 different diseases, including leukemia, aplastic anemia, and several different types of cancer and genetic diseases.
While bone marrow transplants from adults are more common, transplants of umbilical cord are being used more often, and show great promise.
The blood in the umbilical cord is collected after your baby is born. It does not hurt you or the baby to collect this blood. If the blood is not collected, it is discarded along with the placenta.
The umbilical cord blood can be donated to a public cord blood bank, or you can choose to store it in a private cord blood bank. Donations to public cord blood banks are free.
To store the blood in a private cord blood bank, you will pay a collection and processing fee, along with an annual storage fee. This can be quite expensive.
The advantage to using a private cord blood bank is that the blood is reserved for use by your family only. If there is a predisposition to certain diseases in your family, having blood that is likely to be a good match can be a definite advantage.
However, the blood is not guaranteed to be a match, and there are some doctors who will not use blood from private cord blood banks because they are concerned about storage protocols.
If you donate your blood to public cord blood bank, you have the advantage of knowing that it will go to help the first person who needs it and for whom it is a good match.
You also have the reassurance of knowing that should you or your family need cord blood, there is a three times greater chance that you will find what you need in a public registry than in the single sample you have banked.
Donations are also dependent on volume; a person who weighs more than 100 pounds will generally need more cord blood than can be supplied in one single donation.
Even if the cord blood stored when your child was born is a match, more blood from a public cord blood bank might still be needed.
Umbilical cord blood is an increasingly valuable resource, and it is only available once in a lifetime. If you have not considered banking your baby’s umbilical cord blood at birth, think about having it collected and donated to a public cord blood bank. You might just save the life of someone else’s baby.