Whether your family is beginning a pregnancy or approaching its end, many expectant parents have questions about storing their child’s cord blood. Now that it’s National Cord Blood Awareness Month, we thought a medical review might be in order to help answer our families’ most common questions about this issue
(The following Q&A was adapted from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
What is cord blood? What makes it special?
After your child is born, some of his or her blood remains in the umbilical cord or placenta. This blood is not ordinary blood, however, because it contains stem cells.
Unlike other cells, which can only make copies of themselves, stem cells can mature into different kinds of cells. Stem cells can be used to treat some disorders of the blood, immune system and metabolism. They can also help cancer patients better cope with the effects of treatment.
In short, stem cells can effectively treat a limited number of health conditions, and that number may increase in the future.
Should I store my child’s cord blood? If so, where?
Deciding to store your child’s cord blood (or not) is a very personal decision. Before you make a choice, please consider these factors:
- Does your family truly want the insurance cord blood offers? This is a question only you and your family can answer. The chance that you will need to treat your child or another relative with cord blood is at present relatively low. According to ACOG, only about 1 in 2700 people will ever use their child’s cord blood. However, researchers continue to work on new treatments involving stem cells that may alter this figure going forward. Here are some facts about current and potential medical uses for cord blood that may help you reach a decision about cord blood banking.
- Should we use a private blood bank? Collecting and storing cord blood privately can be costly. Families must carefully research privately-owned cord blood banks so that they choose a reputable bank with collection and storage fees they can afford. For those families who want ongoing access to cord blood, only private banks will store and hold the cord blood specifically for your family.
- Should we use a public blood bank? Collecting and storing cord blood in a public bank is free for patients who have tested negative for certain blood, immune and other disorders. Publically donated cord blood, like publicly donated blood, can be used by any patient who matches and is in need. While this system provides a great public good, it may not meet the family’s goal of having cord blood on hand in the event of a health problem.
As you can see, only you and your family can determine which, if either, cord blood banking option meets your family’s needs and means.
If we do go forward, how is cord blood collected? Your South Lake obstetrician or other health professional will collect cord blood immediately post-partum. After the umbilical cord is clamped, we will draw blood from the umbilical cord with a needle and deposit it in a collection bag for delivery to a cord blood facility. The cord blood bank in question (either private or public) can provide you with more details on the particulars.
Important Note: Cord blood cannot always be collected. Sometimes, especially in cases of prematurity, multiple births or even emergency deliveries, there is simply not enough cord blood to collect, or time to collect it safely. Additionally, problems with the mother, usually in the form of infection, may preclude the collection of cord blood at delivery.
We hope the above information helps inform your decision. For more detailed information, we recommend reading the F&Q on Cord Blood Banking at ACOG. Another good resource is the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.
If you want more information about the specifics of cord blood donation and / or specific cord blood banks, we at South Lake would be happy to assist. Just make sure you ask us during your