Cord Blood Banking 101

Cord blood banking is one of the hot topics today for women who are pregnant.  But, what exactly is cord blood banking, and is there a reason for you to spend your money banking your baby’s cord blood privately?  Learn more about these important issues and questions below.

What is Cord Blood?

While in the womb, the placenta gives the baby the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to stay healthy and develop.  Usually, after a birth, the placenta and attached umbilical cord are discarded and are not thought about again.  However, during the 1970s, researchers began to think that the umbilical cord blood might actually be useful after the birth.  They discovered that this blood might have similar stem cells to that used by a bone marrow donor.  At that stage, doctors began to store blood from the umbilical cord, called cord blood, for future use.

 What Can Cord Blood Do For You?

Blood forming stem cells are cells that are found in the body, usually in bone marrow.  They can develop into three types of blood cells that we have in our blood including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  When a person has cancer, blood disease or an immune disorder, they often need treatments that are both beneficial and detrimental to the body.  Chemotherapy and radiation attempt to kill the diseased areas in the body, but they also often attack healthy cells.  Sometimes, it becomes necessary to give a person in this situation a bone marrow transplant to restore healthy stem cells to the bone marrow.  These healthy stem cells need to come from a source outside of the child.

Here is where the idea for banking cord blood appears.  The thought behind this process is that blood from the placenta could, potentially, be used either by the child who was born or by another family member in time of dire need.

How Do You Collect Cord Blood?

The woman has to decide before going into labor that she wants to store her cord blood.  Prior to the birth, the woman would be in touch with her chosen cord blood bank and would receive a special kit that is used during delivery for the collection of the cord blood.  After delivery, blood is taken from the umbilical cord.  Generally, more blood can be collected during a vaginal delivery than can during a Caesarean delivery; the doctor has to be more focused on the woman’s needs during the Caesarean delivery than he is on the cord blood.  The more blood that is collected the better, as it increases the amount of stem cells that are collected and that can, potentially, be used for future implantation.

Once the blood has been collected and placed into the special kit, it’s delivered to the cord blood bank by courier.  Then, the sample will be given a specific number.  The stem cells are separated from the rest of the blood and are stored using a process that freezes liquids and stores them in liquid nitrogen.  Should the stem cells ever be needed, they can be thawed and used as required.  These cells should, theoretically, be able to stay stored forever and used when needed.  To date, this process has only been performed since the 1970s.  Researchers know that stem cells have been reused a decade after being frozen, but no concrete evidence shows the length that they can remain frozen at this time.

As with any procedure and process, each person should research cord blood banking and decide if it’s something worth doing.  Cord blood banking is a relatively new technology and is an exciting field with a lot of potential. The question is if it’s the right technology for you at the moment.

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