If you’re expecting, then you’ve probably seen cord blood banking information during prenatal care visits or even in your mailbox. The emphasis is on enlisting their services to store cord blood from your soon-to-arrive newborn. However, some moms-to-be might feel a little lightheaded when considering the costs. So, in the interest of keeping you cool and informed, we decided to drop a little knowledge. July is Cord Blood Awareness Month and there’s another way to take it to the bank.
Umbilical cord blood is rich in the blood-forming cells that can be used in medical treatments and transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and many other life-threatening diseases. Roughly 70% of those in need of medical treatment do not have matching family members, which means they will have to find an unrelated match. Donated cord blood makes that match possible.
The collection of the cord blood is simple, painless and has no negative effects on the mother or newborn. One positive side effect is that every donation gives patients new hope.
“Mothers delivering full-term, healthy, single babies can elect to donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank,” explains Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, director of Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “The donation process is risk-free to both mom and baby and is performed at no cost to the mother or her family.” After the baby is delivered and the cord blood collected, a sample of mom’s blood is taken to screen for infections that can be transmitted through the blood. Mom also has to complete a medical history questionnaire for herself and her baby’s family, as well as sign a donor consent form. The size of the collection and the results of the tests can affect whether the cord blood is used. “After technical details about the cord blood unit are reviewed and cleared, the details about the unit are listed on the ‘Be the Match’ unrelated donor registry of the National Marrow Donor Program ,” Kurtzberg explains. “From there, patients in need of a donor for transplant can have a search performed to locate their best matching donor.” Although cord blood was once considered nothing more than medical waste, Kurtzberg notes, “We know now that a cord blood unit can save a life. Donating cord blood gives a patient new hope.”
“Just a decade or so ago, there were only a few diseases that could be treated with cord blood, now there are nearly 80 treatable diseases.” Advancements in technology are leading to the development of new procedures. “We are now able to separate the cord blood tissue and take more stem cells out,” Kraus explains. These cord tissue stem cells contain regenerative properties and have the potential to treat many disorders including Parkinson’s disease and sports injuries. Kraus adds, “We are currently in phase II of clinical trials to use stem cells to treat cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes.” Plus, the best part of the new research, he notes, is that diseases previously treated with chemo-therapy are showing great response to stem cells without the use of radiation.
-See also, “A life-saving option.”
For more information on donating, visit Be the Match.
If you decide banking your cord blood privately is right for your family, then there are important aspects to consider when choosing a company:
1. Do your research and do it early:
- Talk to family and friends and your physician or midwife to get recommendations.
- Check online for testimonials and reviews. What is the bank’s reputation?
- Don’t assume it’s best to enroll with one close to home. A bank’s headquarters and its storage facility may not even be in the same state.
2. Know the regulations and requirements:
- Has the bank registered with the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and met all state regulatory requirements?
- Is the bank accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)? Accreditation, which requires audits every two years, is evidence that your sample is screened, processed, and stored following the strictest quality assurance guidelines.
3. Be picky with the process:
- What delivery method is used to transport the blood? Samples can be destroyed because of improper transit. A reputable bank should use a medical courier company.
- Ask about collection and storage methods, as well as published rates on cell viability to ensure the bank is using the best available technology to save your cells so they will be ready in the event that you might need them.
- Find out if they’ve facilitated any successful transplants. A red flag should go up if a bank has a high volume of cord blood units in storage but has never used a unit for transplant. This could mean transplant surgeons have rejected their cord blood which could mean its procedures are not careful or thorough enough.
4. Business and stability:
- How long has the bank been in business?
- Is the bank involved in any research or clinical studies with prestigious medical research institutions? A bank on the cutting edge of research would likely play a stronger and supportive role if the cord blood was needed in treatment for your child.
- How profitable is the company? It’s important to realize cord blood banking is a business. If the bank goes out of business it could mean the cord blood units will be no longer be retrievable.
(For more information see, “Choosing a family cord blood bank.”)
Whether it’s used privately, publicly or for research, your cord blood will help achieve positive outcomes for years to come—you can bank on it.