Before a baby is born, parents have a lot of things to consider. Some of these may include developing a birth plan, choosing a nursery theme, and much more. At times, even the doctor may provide them health-related options such as blood tests, ultrasounds, prenatal testing, or even cord blood banking. Amongst all these, one decision that you may want to take early on in pregnancy is that of cord blood banking. Should you decide in favor of banking your baby’s cord blood, there is some planning that needs to take place.

What is Cord Blood?

Blood from the cord is extracted from the umbilical cord shortly after the birth of a newborn and is a rich source of stem cells. Cord blood cells comprise of extra blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta of the baby after the cord is cut.  After their birth, babies don’t require this leftover blood. However, modern-day researchers believe that cord blood should not be discarded. It has been discovered already that the cells present in cord blood are helpful in treating several disorders and illnesses including neurological disorders, immune related disorders, anemia, leukemia, lymphoma, and more.

In addition to the regular components of normal blood, cord blood also contains hematopoietic stem cells. Unlike other cells found in the body that can only make similar cells, hematopoietic cells can develop into different cell types. Compared to bone marrow, cord blood transplant provides more matches and the rejection probability is considerably lower.  Bone marrow collection can be a painful and risky process for the donor. However, cord blood collection is a painless process that requires around ten minutes.

Cord Blood Banking:

As the name suggests, cord blood banking refers to the procedure of cord blood storage and preservation for future use. The popularity of cord blood banking has skyrocketed in recent years, with more and more doctors recommending this procedure to their pregnant patients. However, this is an extremely personal decision for every couple. Also, there are several options for them to consider. The cord blood of a baby can be donated or stored privately for a fee.

Please remember that just like regular blood banks, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also regulates cord blood banks. Cord blood collection and storage in cord blood banks must adhere to certain standard regulations from the FDA. Therefore, only a reputable cord blood bank should be chosen for this purpose.

How Cord Blood Banking Works:

The collection of cord blood is done immediately after the delivery of the baby. First, the doctor cuts and clamps the umbilical cord. Then the doctor, nurse or technician draws the blood from the umbilical cord vein with the help of a needle. Since the extraction is done after cutting and clamping the cord, there is no chance of any harm, discomfort, or pain. Most importantly, this process is completely safe for both cesareans as well as a vaginal birth.

The extracted cord blood is collected in a bag and sent to the bank. Before freezing and storing the blood, separation of stem cells is done. Following this, the blood is frozen at a certain temperature in liquid nitrogen or stored cryogenically.

Once the stem cells are ready for use, they can be thawed and used as and when required. In most instances, however, transplants are limited to young adults or children because the amount collected from an umbilical cord is not sufficient for adults.

Theoretically speaking, cord blood can be stored forever. However, it is important to remember that research in this field started only in the late 1970s. Therefore, the researchers are yet to determine the maximum limit for their storage and usage.

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