July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. There are often many questions when it comes to cord blood, its benefits, and why people choose to donate or store it. In this article you can learn more about cord blood and help make an informed decision on what to do with your own cord blood after birth.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Before deciding if you want to bank cord blood, it’s important to know what it is. Cord blood is the remaining blood from the baby that’s left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Cord blood is unique in that it has a high concentration of stem cells. Stem cells have the ability to become mature blood cells including red blood cells, white blood, cells and platelets.
Cord Blood Uses
Cord blood and its use is at the discretion of you and your family. Usually for a yearly fee you can store your cord blood privately, to be used if and when it is needed by you or a family member. Private cord blood banking can be beneficial if you or a family member have an existing condition that can be treated using stem cells. Medically, it is unlikely that a child will develop a condition that can be treated with the child’s own stem cells.
Cord blood can also be donated to a public bank to be used by others who needs it. This blood and the stem cells contained inside of it are used for a variety of medical treatments. For nearly 30 years, cord blood has been used in transplant medicine. Cord blood can be used in the treatment of more than 70 diseases. Some of the diseases cord blood has been used for include certain types of cancers, blood diseases, bone marrow failure syndromes, immune disorders, and metabolic disorders. In more recent years, the use of cord blood has been introduced into regenerative medicine clinical trials for conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, and Type 1 diabetes.
You also have the option to not use the cord blood at all. If this option is chosen the placenta and umbilical cord blood will be discarded safely.
How is Cord Blood Collected?
If you choose to have your cord blood collected for private or public use it is important to notify your obstetrician-gynecologist beforehand. Consent must be given before labor begins and, if you are donating to a public bank, the bank must be notified and a collection kit sent if your birthing location does not have one on hand.
Cord blood is collected after birth. Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord cut, the cord will then be clamped. Using a sterile need, a member of the healthcare team will draw the blood from the umbilical vessels into the collection bag. The blood will then be packaged and sent to the bank you have chosen. The process usually takes no longer than 10 minutes.
Cord Blood Bank Accreditation
In using cord blood banks, checking for accreditation can be an important and relieving task. In the United States, public banks are required to get a Biologics License, distributed through the FDA. In comparison, the FDA only requires a registration for family cord blood banks. These family-only banks are also subject to surprise inspections.
Is Donating My Cord Blood Right for Me?
There is no right or wrong course of action when it comes to your cord blood. Since it is part of your body you have to make the decision that feels right to you. You can always talk about your concerns and options with your obstetrician-gynecologist.
Donating your cord blood to a public bank can potentially help others, but it is important to get balanced information to help make an informed decision. Consider doing more research before making your decision. If you want to learn more about the benefits of cord blood donation, examine some of the foundations that strive to educate families on its uses, such as the Save the Cord Foundation.
Have Additional Questions About Cord Blood Banking?
Dr. Meghan A. Nichols, MD is a physician at Kansas City ObGyn. She graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City accelerated undergraduate and medical school program, then completed a four-year Ob/Gyn residency. Dr. Nichols is married with two children.