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Cord Blood Banking 101: A Primer for Moms-to-Be

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June 1, 2012

As a practicing obstetrician, I encourage my patients to consider saving their newborn’s cord blood and placenta blood stem cells for two important reasons.  First, cord blood stem cells are used to treat as many as 80 life-threatening blood disorders.  Second, important strides are being made in the field of regenerative medicine which is using these stem cells to build different types of tissue. In the future, they could potentially be used for traumatic injuries, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and more.

Still it surprises me that only 5 percent of parents chose to save their children’s cord blood and placental blood stem cells.

Here are answers to some of the most frequent questions I am asked.  I share these with the hopes that doing so helps more parents to decide to save this valuable natural resource, rather then let it be thrown away.

Is it painful?

No – collection happens after the child is born and while s/he is being cuddled in mom’s arms.

How much does it cost to family bank? 

Costs vary but most collection companies offer a variety of payment plans to make it as accessible as possible.  Companies also have gift registry options so family and friends can contribute to the cost of cord blood banking.

How do I select the bank that is right for me?

Look at three key factors, at minimum:  financial stability, commitment to research and ability to help you save the most cells possible, using the best known storage practices. For all these reasons and more, I frequently recommend LifebankUSA.  It is owned by a bio-pharmaceutical company and is well-resourced to invest in research.  As a medical innovator, they developed the technology for storing placental blood.  Plus, they will collect donated cells from anywhere in the US (primarily for medical research), which is a great answer for anyone who wishes to donate their baby’s cord blood and placental blood stem cells.

I want to donate but can’t find a local hospital to accept the cells?

See above – and whatever you do, please don’t throw them away!

Isn’t delayed clamping better then saving the cord blood stem cells?

First, delayed clamping and cord blood banking are not mutually exclusive.  You can do both.  If your baby is premature, it may be more advantageous to delay clamping to allow more of the umbilical blood to flow into the infant.  However, the data is more varied when it comes to the benefits of delayed clamping in the full-term infant.  In my opinion, you would need to look at the full clinical picture to determine what is right for your family.

In the case we do need to do a transplant, aren’t my chances of success as good with donated cells that are a match as they are with my child’s cells?   

Not quite.   According to an analysis of cord blood transplantations between 1988 and 1996, as published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 1-year survival rate was 73 percent for perfect matches and 63 percent for related cord blood donors, but only 29 percent for unrelated cord blood donors. the 1-year survival rate was 73 percent for perfect matches and 63 percent for related cord blood donors, but only 29 percent for unrelated cord blood donors.

No one knows what the future will bring, but in my opinion it is best to keep your options open – and that starts with keeping your newborn’s cord blood and placental blood stem cells.

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