Cord blood banking is a relatively new concept. It is only in the last ten years that parents have seriously begun to bank their baby’s cord blood. While the practice of banking cord blood is still not common it is becoming more popular as people begin to learn about its benefits.
Cord blood is the blood that remains in umbilical cord after a live birth. Currently the umbilical cord along with the placenta and associated blood are all discarded after birth. Cord blood stem cells have more extensive uses than bone marrow stem cells and do not face the controversy that is associated with embryonic stem cell research.
Cord blood stem cells can develop into various types of cells such as muscle, nerve or blood cells. Since these cells can regenerate immune system and repair damaged cells, they have the potential to treat heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease.
Cord blood may indeed be the way of the future. Currently, it can treat more than 75 diseases, immune deficiencies and other conditions. It is effective for treatment of certain types of cancer, blood disorders and auto-immune diseases. The cord blood can be used not only by your child, but also other family members.
In recent stem cell breakthroughs, researchers were able to develop bone and cartilage, and grow mini liver and lung cells from cord blood stem cells. These cells can potentially be transplanted into the body to repair damaged organs, thus overcoming the severe shortages of organ donors. Researches are hopeful that cord blood stem cell transplant can regenerate into organs inside or outside the body and saves many lives. There is less chance of the body rejecting the new organ regenerated from your own cord blood.
There are 2 types of cord blood banks: private and public. If you want to bank your baby’s cord blood for use by your child or other family members, then you should choose a private cord blood bank. However, private cord blood banking can be costly as you have to pay for the cord blood collection process and annual storage fees. There are cases you should consider storing cord blood privately. Parents of children of ethnic minorities are encouraged to bank their baby’s cord blood as it is difficult to find bone marrow match. Private cord blood banking is also recommended where there’s a family history to diseases only treatable with cord blood.
Cord blood stored in a public bank can be used by anyone who needs it.
If you decide to bank your newborn’s cord blood, you will need to choose a cord blood bank ahead of the birth, typically at least a month or two before the due date. Once you fill out the paperwork and inform your doctor and hospital about the decision. Many hospitals are not equipped to handle this immediate cord blood collection at the birth and special arrangements may need to be made. The cord blood will be collected and returned to the bank of your choice to be stored for later use if needed.