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What is Cord Blood and Can it Help Your Baby?

Aug 17, 2007
Cord blood is the blood found in the umbilical cord after a baby is born. It is becoming increasingly popular to bank this cord blood. The reason? The umbilical cord blood contains stem cells.

What are stem cells and why could they be important to the future health of your baby?

Stem cells from cord blood are cells that can create other kinds of beneficial blood cells. These other types of blood cells can be used to combat a variety of diseases that attack the immune system from certain blood diseases to certain varieties of cancers. As medical knowledge continues to advance it is also possible that a number of other diseases might be treatable with this umbilical cord blood.

Saving stem cells from cord blood is becoming a popular option because unlike bone marrow stem cell retrieval it is much easier to harvest and less dangerous to the patient. In fact, the procedure to collect cord blood from the baby at birth is painless for the baby and won't interrupt the birth process.

Another advantage of stem cells from cord blood is that there appears to be less chance of rejection from the host once the cells are introduced making it easier in the case of transplants and other uses.

Add to that the fact that banked cord blood is much more readily accessible than searching for a bone marrow donor through the bone marrow registries and you have an option that makes cord blood seemingly preferable to bone marrow for use in transplants.

Is cord blood preservation and storage economically feasible though?

That remains to be seen. Although the likelihood of one ever having to use the cord blood is remote, the fact that you may have a bank account with cord blood can provide many with a peace of mind unmatched.

Having said that, the jury is still out as to whether using the stem cell blood for your own child is effective or not. For this reason, one should consult a doctor well-versed in the knowledge of the benefits and perils of stem cell transplantation prior to using stored cord blood or even setting up a cord blood bank account.

Using a cord blood bank to store the cord blood for the future use of your child could be important for families that have a history of some cancers or genetic disorders. In this case having the umbilical cord blood in storage is an option that could be explored.

There are an increasing number of cord blood banks that handle cord blood storage. Usually there is an initial outlay that may run up to a couple of thousand dollars followed by a yearly maintanance fee.

Two of the most prominent cord blood banks include the Cord Blood Registry and Viacord. Stored cord blood from the Cord Blood Registry has been responsible for more transplant blood than any other cord blood bank to date. They, like their counterparts, have recommendations from medical professionals on their site.

A parent can also donate the cord blood of their baby to be made available to others via a public cord blood bank. One caveat here though is that even though this is a noble option and one that could very well prolong the lives of others in need there is more red tape involved as the disease history of the parents must be tested, analyzed and confirmed often making it an expensive option.

In the end, is cord blood donation a wise option? On the positive side you have the improved health possibilities and potential future technological advances that may come up with more valuable uses of the stored cord blood. On the negative side you have the cost to retrieve and store the cord blood and the ambiguous scientific evidence as to its efficacy.

Choosing to store or donate cord blood in a cord blood bank then should probably only be done after consultation with a knowledgable physician well-versed in the latest cord blood stem cell research.
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