July is recognized as National Cord Blood Awareness Month. In honor of this, we are bringing awareness and understanding to the benefits of cord blood. Let’s start with defining cord blood. The term is used to define the blood that can be collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after a healthy baby is delivered. Cord blood banking is the preservation of newborn stem cells that can be found in the blood of the umbilical cord and the placenta after birth.
Once the baby has been delivered, the blood that remains intact within the umbilical cord and the placenta can be preserved to harvest the incredibly valuable newborn stem cells. If parents choose to preserve the stem cells, they have two choices for what to do with the cord blood. Parents can choose to donate the cord blood to a public cord blood bank at no charge or they can choose to pay to store it for their family’s use in a private bank.
With either route, cord blood banking starts with the collection of the cord blood and ends with the storage of newborn stem cells through cryogenic storage. These newborn stem cells can be used for future medical purposes.
Cord Blood Banking
Once cord blood is collected, it is stored carefully with a method of freezing called cryopreservation. This method helps to preserve the cord blood newborn stem cells safely for many years.
If you choose to store your newborn’s cord blood privately, it can be used for first or second-degree familial relatives. There is usually a fee upfront and an annual storage fee for private cord banks.
If you choose to donate the cord blood to a public bank, the stem cells can be used for a patient in need of a hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
Using Newborn Stem Cells
According to the FDA, “Cord blood is approved only for use in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation procedures, which are done in patients with disorders affecting the hematopoietic (blood-forming) system. Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells that can be used in the treatment of patients with blood cancers such as leukemias and lymphomas, as well as certain disorders of the blood and immune systems, such as sickle cell disease and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
“Cord blood is useful because it is a source of stem cells that form into blood cells. Cord blood can be used for transplantation in people who need regeneration, that is, ‘regrowth,’ of these blood-forming cells,” Wonnacott says.
For instance, in many cancer patients, the disease is found in the blood cells. Chemotherapy treatment of these patients kills both cancer cells and the healthy blood-forming stem cells. Transplanted stem cells from cord blood can help regrow the healthy blood cells after the chemotherapy.”
What to Know and What to Ask
If cord blood banking is something that you are considering, take your time to explore your options before the baby comes. Talk to one of our Certified Nurse Midwives or your trusted healthcare provider to see what the best fit might be for you and your newborn. If you are considering donating to a public bank, see if the hospital you will be delivering your baby at participates in a cord blood banking program.
Talk to A Midwife
At City of Oaks Midwifery, our goal is to help patients in Raleigh and the greater Triangle area achieve the birth that they desire, including cord blood banking if that is what the patient desires. We believe in watchful waiting and non-intervention in normal birth process, but work in collaboration with other members of the health care team as needed to provide optimal health care for both the mother and her baby. To schedule an appointment with one of our certified nurse-midwives, call (919) 351-8253.