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Cord blood banking

In order to understand cord blood banking, it is first necessary to know what cord blood is and its medical significance. Cord blood is the blood found inside the umbilical cord. Following the birth of a baby, the umbilical cord is cut and usually discarded, along with the placenta. Medical research has shown that this blood is rich in stem cells which are genetically related to your baby and your family. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into any specialized cell in the body such as muscle cell, or red blood cell, or brain cell. They can transform into other types of cells in the body to create new growth and development. They are the building block of the immune system. Therefore, stem cells in the cord blood can be used to treat various genetic disorders, leukemia and certain cancers.

Cord blood storage of the umbilical cord is a new concept in medical science that promises to protect a child from any grave ailments or illnesses in the future. The only unique thing about the umbilical cord blood as compared to the regular blood is that the former is rich in stem cells that hold the ability to convert into mature cells of the body. Cord blood banking involves the collection of cord blood of a baby once it is born, the processing to separate non-essential particles from the cord blood, and the storage of the cord blood stem cells under cryogenic conditions.

Umbilical cord blood banking is the preservation of the blood and stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord at the time of birth. It is then stored in a bank for potential future use to treat a variety of different illnesses and diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders

Cord blood is a much richer source of stem cells than bone marrow hence, fewer cord blood cells are needed for a successful transplantation. Cord blood also has an edge over adult stem cells, in the sense, that they are less likely to contain abnormalities caused by environmental toxins, or sunlight. They are also less likely to be rejected in transplants as compared to bone marrow (which are the current alternative).

In cord blood banking, blood is drawn from the umbilical cord and the placenta after a baby is born. The blood that is taken is then s
ent to the banking facility that you have chosen. At the storage facility the blood will be tested and the stem cells removed, frozen, and stored appropriately for later use by the family.

Cord blood banking is a type of insurance or back up in case your family needs it in future. The stem cells in your baby’s cord blood can be also be used to treat certain diseases of a parent or sibling. There are no health risks related to cord blood collection. Cord blood is retrieved from the cord after it has been cut thus preventing any pain or discomfort. It is a totally safe and painless procedure.

The whole process takes no lo
nger than ten minutes. Cord blood collection will not interfere with delivery and is possible with both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.  Once the cord is clamped, a trained member from the cord bank will drain the blood from the umbilical cord and the placenta. The blood is usually collected using a needle to draw the blood into a blood bag. On an average, three to five ounces are collected from the umbilical cord to produce enough stem cells. It is important that cord blood be collected during the first 15 minutes after the birth and processed by the laboratory within 48 hours of collection.

There are usually two fees involved in cord blood banking. The first is the initial fee which covers the collection and storage for at least the first year. The second is an annual storage fee. Some facilities take a onetime fee for a predetermined period of storage.

Cord blood contains stem cells which may be frozen for later use in medical therapies such as stem cell transplantation or regenerative medicine as a transplant alternative to bone marrow. The stem cells are an exact match for the baby. And the cells have at least a one in four chance of being an exact match for a sibling. Ideally, you will not need to access your baby’s stem cells in order to address a medical problem. But using a cord blood bank can provide peace of mind knowing that you have a valuable resource if you need it.

However, there are some facts about cord blood banking which you need to keep in mind before making a decision:

  • Don’t be misled by over the top promotions in the media about cord blood banking. Do your own research.

  • Cord blood banking is an emerging field and there is no absolute certainty that it will give 100% results when used.

  • There is a high chance that the cord blood may have the same genetic disorder, and so may not be able to use it. However, the stem cells may be used to treat the child’s sibling.

  • Even if you allow your baby’s cord blood to be stored, there is no guarantee that the company will keep the sample in a sterile and safe manner, that will keep the integrity of the sample intact.

  • It is recommended that unless your family have a history of genetic disorders you do not need to resort to private cord blood storage.

  • The cord blood should be processed and stored in a facility that is accredited by standard regulatory agencies

  • The cost – cord blood banking is expensive. The cost can easily run over Rs 70-80,000 for the initial fee, and then a yearly storage charge.

  • It may never be needed – the medical conditions that cord blood is used to treat are relatively rare. Most families will never experience any of them.

  • It may not be usable – for a variety of reasons, the cord blood may not be usable. There may not be enough collected, it may contain the genes that cause the illness that is being treated, it may have other problems. And some medical conditions that are treated with cord blood are best treated with cord blood from an unrelated donor.

  • It has been estimated that the chance of a child needing his own cord blood in the future is only 1 in 20,000.

  • It is expensive to bank cord blood and financially out of reach for many families. Some companies charge yearly fees for storing the cord blood, so it is a life-long commitment in many instances with a limited possibility of actually needing to use the blood.

  • Stem cell therapy is still experimental and there is limited evidence of its effectiveness for things like cerebral palsy and other brain injuries.

  • Blood can carry disease and not all diseases are screened in blood

Contrary to conventional marketing hype, cord blood is a very essential component of nutrients and immune giving substances that passes on to the baby immediately after birth. Evidence-based research tells us that the umbilical cord should not be clamped until it has stopped pulsated, when most of the cord blood has passed on to the baby. This is at odds with current practice followed by many cord blood companies and doctors of clamping umbilical cord and collecting the blood early enough, thus depriving the baby of important nutrients.

Cord blood banking is an option that is available to expectant mums, but this decision will need to be made before the birth of the baby. It is a decision that parents need to consider carefully. This is a personal decision, but something that you should carefully. Research the pros and cons of before making the final decision about whether to or not to have your baby’s cord stem cells stored.

Cord blood banks in India:











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