Planning and following a few simple steps will enable you to save the cord blood of your newborn, but is it necessary? What are the pros and cons of cord blood? Who will benefit? Is it just one more way for nouveau companies to make big bucks at the expense of people trying to hedge their bet when in reality the possibility that it will ever be needed is a long shot? Take a good hard look before you decide whether it’s worth the expense.
What is cord blood?
The steps to saving your newborn’s cord blood should be planned out in advance of the birth. The emotionally charged moment of giving birth is no time to make a sound decision and a last minute decision is not a viable option, as you will see. Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. The small amount of blood retrieved contains stem cells. Because stem cells are unspecialized they have the power to produce all other blood cells including red and white blood cells and platelets that have the ability to clot. Cord blood, like bone marrow, has the potential to treat blood disorders and some cancers. Approximately 45 blood disorders can be treated with cord blood at this time.
What are the advantages of Cord Blood?
One advantage is that harvesting cord blood is simple and painless because it’s done at birth without interrupting the birth process. The stem cells retrieved from cord blood can be available to a wider range of people. When bone marrow is taken from a donor and transplanted into a receiver a fatal complication may arise that causes the bone marrow to be rejected by the patient’s body. Rejection occurs much less with cord blood. When cord blood is donated to a public facility it can be retrieved much quicker, making it more readily available to those in need.
What should you consider before making a decision?
Most parents make the decision to save their infant’s cord blood on the premise that their child might need it sometime in the future. The odds are approximately 1 in 20,000 will actually need the cord blood. If your family has a history of certain cancers, immune problems, or blood disorders you may want to keep the cord blood in a private bank. There are currently three large companies that offer this service. However, there is no certainty that this blood would be used for your child if a problem would arise. In fact, doctors rarely use the cord blood in cases where the child becomes ill. Thus far 6,000 children have had transplants with only 14 having their own blood used. If an older sibling currently has a blood disorder or disease than by all means save the cord blood.
The cost of saving cord blood is not to be ignored. The initial fee may be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 plus collection, courier, and processing. This does not include genetic counseling to discover if your family history would make saving cord blood an important investment. You will be required to pay a monthly or yearly storage fee of approximately $100 a month depending on which company you go with.
If you opt to donate the cord blood to one of twenty public banks you should be aware that at this time there are no FDA regulations in place. Some banks store whole blood; others separate the blood into red and white. There are no uniform guidelines set as to how to collect the blood so it is not contaminated. You will be asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire regarding both parents’ family medical history. HIV and hepatitis tests are essential, also. .
Ethical concerns may come into play also. The March of Dimes asks these questions:
“Who owns the cord blood sample? How is informed consent obtained from parents before harvesting cord blood? How is the counseling process for informed consent provided? How should the obligation to notify parents and donor-children of the results of medical testing for infectious diseases and genetic information to be handled? How are privacy and confidentiality to be maintained? How will services for the harvesting of and access to umbilical cord blood be provided fairly?” These are excellent questions to be carefully pondered before moving forward. Seek the counsel of your family’s gynecologist and pediatrician before making a final decision.
How to save your newborn’s cord blood.
Once all issues have been thought through, you’ve visited your family doctors for advice and information, you’ve researched and studied the pros and cons of how to save cord blood, you’ve made a decision to go forward. Decide which company you’re going with and contact them as soon as you’ve made a decision. They will give you the instructions you’ll need to take the next step.
The actual process of collecting cord blood is fairly simple and takes 5 minutes or less, but must be done within the first 15 minutes after birth.
1.The syringe method draws the blood from the cut umbilical cord.
2.The bag method has the blood draining into a bag from the elevated umbilical cord.
3.The blood is then carefully labeled and sent off to a bank where it must be processed within 48 hours.
All paperwork will be completed in advance of the birth of your child and the collection of the cord blood.
The medical community, as well as the policing FDA have yet to catch up to the fast moving rate of marketing companies who use the emotions of love and fear to garner business from those who have the ability to pay to have their child’s cord blood banked whether it needs to be or not. A more logical option of saving cord blood may be to donate to one of the public banks, but there are downsides to that option. A limited number of states have public banks at this time making the option impossible if you live don’t live in close enough proximity to one of these banks. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are urging public banking of cord blood at this time. Each family must make their own decision. Being armed with as much information as possible makes the process a smoother road to traverse.