Most expecting parents are facing many important decisions before the baby is born. Basic decisions include the name of the baby, formula feeding or breastfeeding, and many more. One important issue that needs to be considered by many expecting parents is to whether or not bank the umbilical cord blood of their baby.
Numerous ads printed in the flyers found in many obstetricians’ offices, direct mailings, and parenting magazines repeatedly urge the expecting parents to save their child’s umbilical cord blood. It is a “chance-in-a-lifetime” for many parents to ensure their newborn’s health or for future use to save the baby’s life.
The umbilical cord blood banking entails collecting blood left in the newborn’s placenta and umbilical cord and keeping it for future medical purposes. The cord blood richly contains potentially lifesaving cells known as stem cells. Blood stem cells are the building blocks of the body’s immune system. These cells also have the ability to progress into other kinds of cells to help repair blood vessels, organs, and tissues.
A transfusion of blood stem cells from the umbilical cord of a healthy donor helps in creating new cells for the immune system, providing the patient a greater chance of recovery. Currently, there are more than 70 diseases treated successfully using the stem cells from the cord blood. These include immune deficiencies, blood disorders, cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, thalassemia, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, and leukemia. Also, some of the diseases treated with these blood stem cells include rare metabolic disorders, such as Sanfilippo syndrome and Krabbe disease, which are known to cause fatal effects to most infants.
Unlike the stem cells found in the bone marrow, the stem cells extracted from the newborn’s umbilical cord blood are immature. These “primitive” cells are not easily recognized by the body, resulting to less possibility of rejecting the transfusion. Also, with the stem cells extracted from the cord blood, it is easier to match the patients for the transplant compared to other sources of stem cells. This makes the cord blood a more valuable source for stem cells in many ethnic minorities.
Ideally, stem cells last forever. Yet, the current cord-blood researches are still trying to determine the maximum time for stem cell storage and usage. Nevertheless, stem cells from the cord blood that have been saved for more than a year have been used successfully in various medical treatments.
Cord blood banking is a procedure that expecting parents have to plan and choose beforehand. Hence, consider carefully every aspect of the decision before the delivery day.