Any expectant parent will know, making decisions for your baby begins as soon as that pregnancy test is positive. There are so many things to consider – ranging from mom’s diet, whether to breastfeed or bottle feed and if male newborns should be circumcised. New moms and dads can add one more major decision to their list – cord banking.
July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month and, really, that’s a good thing. It’s such a new topic that most people really don’t know much about it and, often, it just gets overlooked. We have blood donor drives and the option of becoming an organ donor but many do not realize that this is yet another way to help someone in need.
Specific genetic disorders and blood diseases are best treated with a bone marrow transplant but finding a donor can be extremely difficult, sometimes impossible. Most people begin by having relatives tested before trying to find a match outside of family members. It can be especially difficult for ethnic and racial minorities.
Stem cells are found in the blood of a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and are mainly used in the treatment of disease and tissue regeneration. Currently, almost 80 medical conditions are treated with cord blood including Type 1 diabetes and cerebral palsy. A blood and marrow stem cell transplant can be used to replace a person’s abnormal stem cells with healthy ones from a donor.
Clinical Trials and Research
Research into the benefits and uses of cord blood has been going on for more than 15 years. Much of it surrounds the effectiveness of people being able to accept cord blood from donors to which they are not genetically related. There has been an emphasis on the importance of participating in clinic trials to improve the procedures and treatment options. Ongoing studies include sickle cell disease, severe aplastic anemia and myelodysplatic syndromes.
After a child is born and their umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the blood left over in the umbilical cord is collected and stored for potential use in the future. The stem cells can be saved in a public bank or a private family bank and kept frozen for years. Ultimately, it’s up to the expectant parents to decide which option is best for them.