Expectant parents spend nine months making decisions about their baby. Should cord blood banking be one of them? Maybe you’ve heard that cord blood transplantation can be a lifesaving treatment. Or you’re wondering if cord blood banking is something everyone does when they deliver.
July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month, and a good time to build awareness about cord blood, cord blood transplantation and cord blood banking.
What is Cord Blood?
Cord blood is the blood from your baby that’s left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Cord blood contains stem cells. What makes these cells special is they can grow into blood, immune and other types of cells which can be used to treat some diseases and illnesses.
Stem cells are also found in bone marrow, but collecting them from baby’s cord blood offers several advantages:
- Easier to collect than bone marrow stem cells
- Can be frozen and stored
- Can be given to more people because it has fewer matching criteria than bone marrow stem cells
Myth: Collecting cord blood can endanger the baby or mom.
Fact: Collecting cord blood doesn’t change your neonatal care and the procedure is something you can discuss with your physician prior to delivery. If an emergency occurs during delivery, care for you and baby is prioritized over collecting cord blood.
Cord Blood Transplants
These transplants involve transplanting these stem cells into another person, usually a close relative, to treat a serious or life-threatening illness. It is used for transplantation to another person because most conditions you’d treat with your own umbilical cord blood already exist in your own cells. Cord blood transplants have been used to treat:
- Malignancies – such as leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), lymphoma and neuroblastoma.
- Immunodeficiencies – including severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), reticular dysgenesis and others.
- Blood disorders – like sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia, aplastic anemia and more.
Cord blood transplantation is being researched as a potential treatment for such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, cerebral palsy and more.
Myth: Cord blood transplantation is a new treatment.
Fact: Since 1988, cord blood transplants have been used to treat 80+ diseases all over the world.
Cord Blood Banking
This involves collecting the cord blood so these stem cells can be cryogenically frozen for future medical use. It may be recommended if a family member has an illness that can be treated with a cord blood transplant. It can also be used for research.
Myth: Cord blood banking is for everyone.
Fact: Storing umbilical cord blood as “biologic insurance” against future diseases is not recommended. The costs of storing cord blood in a private cord blood bank may far outweigh the benefit. Some parents opt to donate cord blood to a public cord blood bank so it can be used for research or for another recipient. There are currently no cord blood banking facilities in Nebraska or southwestern Iowa. Cord blood can be sent to a facility in another state.
Research is ongoing and more potential benefits of cord blood transplantation are on the horizon. Recently, cord blood therapies have been explored for conditions like cerebral palsy, autism and others related to brain development in early childhood. Whether to collect and bank cord blood remains a personal decision that should be discussed between you and your provider.