If you’re an expecting parent, you probably have a long to-do list of things that need to get done before the big day. But if you haven’t added “donating cord blood” to that list yet, here’s why you should consider it:
What is Cord Blood?
Cord blood is the blood that’s found in a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and placenta. This blood is a primary source of stem cells, which are the cells that are necessary for producing blood.
Here’s a quick video that explains what cord blood is and how the stem cells found in cord blood can benefit patients in the case of a transplant:
What Normally Happens to Cord Blood?
Although the potential of cord blood and its stem cells is incredible, this is still an emerging element of modern medicine. For that reason, the umbilical cord and placenta are often discarded as medical waste today rather than used for potentially lifesaving transplants.
How Does Saved Cord Blood Get Used?
The Health Resources and Services Administration notes that about 70% of patients who need a stem cell transplant don’t have a matching donor in their own family. Fortunately, cord blood doesn’t have to be perfectly matched to help those dealing with ailments such as:
- Sickle Cell
- Autoimmune Disorders
Although these cancers and disorders can often be treated by bone marrow transplants, cord blood donations can contain as much as 10 times more stem cells than bone marrow donations. In addition, stem cells from cord blood are less likely to be rejected than those from bone marrow.
Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banking
While the general concept of cord blood banking involves the preservation of cord blood, there are a few different types of cord blood banking:
Public cord blood banking doesn’t cost anything for the parents and is designed to make the potentially lifesaving cells available to anyone who needs them. Public cord blood banks collect, test, and preserve the cord blood until it is needed by a patient or patients.
Private cord blood banks do exist, too. Sometimes called “family banks,” these are designed to save cord blood exclusively for members of your family so that it can be used if there are any specific medical needs within the family. Unfortunately, private cord blood banking means that the cells are not made available to those outside of your family, so those who are in need will not be able to make use of those cells if they need a transplant. Moreover, private cord blood banks are usually expensive and, even if the cord blood comes from a family member, there’s only about a 25 percent chance that another family member’s body will even be able to receive the cells.
Cord Blood Donations at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center
Although we do not currently offer public cord banking here at the hospital, we encourage families to consider participating in one of many mail-in programs that you can learn more about here.
Ultimately, your decision to take part in cord blood banking — public or private — is up to you and your family, and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re considering cord blood banking, visit the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation’s website and be sure to talk to your doctor and/or your midwife to find out more and to answer any questions you may have.