By Alice Pettaway
The umbilical cord and placenta are a vital and natural source of potentially lifesaving cells that are safe and painless to collect from your newborn child, but could play a vital role later on in their life.
The first point to stress is that the methods involved in collecting the cord blood do not interrupt in any way with your birthing plan or preferences. Your partner can still cut the umbilical cord if they want to at the birth of your child and after the child has been delivered, either vaginally or by C-section, the cord can then be clamped and cut.
Once the umbilical cord has been prepared by being clamped and cut, the medical practitioner handling the birth will insert a needle into the umbilical vein on the section of the cord that is still attached to the placenta. You should be assured that the needle does not get anywhere near your baby and there is no potential for distress in any way during this procedure.
Collecting the blood
The blood is either collected by allowing it to drip into a collecting bag or drawn out using a syringe. You would normally expect to collect somewhere between 3 to 5 ounces of cord blood and the process should not take any longer than about 10 minutes to complete.
The blood bank
The collected blood is then shipped to your chosen cord blood bank where it is then tested and assessed to ensure that it meets the required quality standard, before being frozen and subsequently sent for long term storage under specialist conditions.
Some private cord blood banks also offer to collect a segment of the umbilical cord as well as the blood itself, as the cord contains stem cells that are different from cord blood stem cells and may have a future use once further scientific research has been carried out.
What makes cord blood so valuable?
Stem cells are the building blocks of the blood and immune system and cord blood is a rich source of these vital blood stem cells. Stem cells are highly prized because they have the ability to develop into other types of cells, which means that they can be used to help repair tissues, organs, damaged blood vessels and a good number of diseases that attack the body.
Better than bone marrow?
A devastating disease like leukemia can be treated using a transfusion of stem cells using cord blood from a healthy donor, which helps to create a whole new blood and immune system, making recovery much more likely. The advantage of stem cells from cord blood as opposed to bone marrow is that the stem cells in cord blood are more immature which actually helps reduce rejection rates as the body is unable to recognize these cells and therefore does not attempt to attack or reject them.
Fighting disease with cord blood
Banking this vital resource will almost be like providing a highly personalized insurance policy for your child to fight back against more than 70 recognized diseases that they could become afflicted by. Saving the cord blood of all the children in the your closely related families, is an excellent idea as sometimes it is better to treat a genetic illness with stem cells from someone closely related rather than the child’s cord blood itself.
How much will it cost?
There are normally two fees involved with cord blood banking, the first is a fee that covers consultation, collection of the blood, evaluation and subsequent storage for a predetermined period of time, and you should expect to pay somewhere close to $1,000 and not normally much more than $2,000 for this service.
There is then an annual storage charge which is generally around $100, although some private cord blood banks offer an incentive for upfront payment which can reduce the long term storage costs.
There are a good number of benefits to consider with cord blood banking and the potential chance to safeguard your child’s future health makes the likely fees involved, seem very trivial indeed.