For many parents today – saving the umbilical cord blood is a no-brainer. The fact that it is being used in advanced research that may someday be used to save the life of the child or a family member, makes it an easy investment in the future. Yet most parents readily admit that they don’t quite understand the process of saving umbilical cord blood or the real benefits to doing so. Most of the advertisements and information found in the OBGYN’s office or parenting magazines lists comprehensive benefits – but doesn’t explain in any great detail just how the cord blood can help. What they do understand is that obtaining the blood for storage is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
First of all, collecting cord blood does not hurt the baby at all. When the umbilical cord is cut – it contains a great deal of rich blood and cells that otherwise are discarded. The beneficial ingredients are called stem cells. Stem cells are the roots from which every human cell in the body is made upon and they can have some pretty powerful effects on certain diseases. The blood is then collected and parents can either donate the blood or opt for private blood banking that must be done directly after birth. All of this is paid for and arranged for ahead of time.
In pediatric patients, the cord blood stem cells can be used for transplants. The diseases that have had prominent research are leukemia, sickle cell disease as well as many other metabolic disorders. If the child that you have were to ever have one of these diseases, their banked stem cells could be life saving to say the least. For many people with these diseases, finding a suitable stem cell match is nearly impossible and the cord blood collected from an infant would be spot on. In addition to that, research suggests that both siblings and other close relatives could benefit from the stored cord blood. Of course, if your child has leukemia – there is a good change that the leukemia will also be in the cord blood.
Once cord blood is collected and transported to storage facilities, it is tested completely for many things. Parents have to decide whether to use public or private cord blood banks. If you choose to bank your child’s cord blood – then you are taking out an insurance policy of sorts on your child – knowing that as research and medical advancements develop, you will have the blood should you ever need it. There have been families who essentially have another child to bank the cord blood so that they can use it for a child in the family that is sick with one of the many diseases cord blood can cure.
One of the deciding factors in whether to save the umbilical cord blood comes down to money. The collection costs which must be paid up front can cost anywhere from $600 to $2500. This is called a processing fee and involves the collection package, sampling, testing, and transport of the blood before it is put into storage. In addition to that, companies charge an annual storage feel which can cost around $150 per year.
Another problem that the American Academy of Pediatrics sees with saving umbilical cord blood is that parents are being marketed by emotions rather than by what makes sense. In most cases, your child will not need the cord blood and should they – there is a chance it is tainted with the disease that they are suffering from. While the cord blood would be a better match for your family – it isn’t necessarily a perfect match. You may find that you are unable to utilize your own child’s cord blood. At the same time, encouraging parents to donate cord blood to public banks – avoiding the costs is encouraged by other sects of medicine. They feel that stocking up on this cord blood would be extremely beneficial to many children and adults (as well as research) that are suffering from treatable diseases. Since 2005 – there has been legislation written that will enable hospitals to collect cord blood for public banks; however, it still has not been passed and is likely to stay wrapped in government red tape for many years.
One thing to consider is how quickly medicine is evolving. There are millions of dollars being spent on stem cell research for diseases as simple as diabetes, to those as complex as Alzheimer’s and types of cancers. In ten years time – there is no real assurance what scientists will find in terms of stem cells. For people who have banked the blood – the research could end up indicating that the investment was well worth it; or it could be vague and incomplete. Not knowing, and only having one chance to collect the cord blood – makes it a difficult decision.
Saving your child’s umbilical cord blood is strictly a personal decision. If you are interested in it, you should research the medial advances of cord blood with reputable organizations that do not market cord blood banking. You should also check out your options for public and private cord blood banking and compare costs with many companies. Another great resource is your child’s pediatrician and your OBGYN. Talk to them and try to gather their opinions on cord blood banking. Once you have all of your facts together – you can make a decision that is right for you and your family, based on information rather than the sense and urgency that you have to do this in order to safeguard your child. In many cases, even children with stored cord blood have not been able to utilize their own because the DNA of their disease is in the cord blood as well.