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Pros and Cons of Storing Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood
Being a caring expectant parent you want to make sure you are doing everything needed for your baby’s healthy long life. You must have heard of storing stem cells from hospital or friends who did it. While you await your little one’s arrival, you also need to decide if it would help to save your baby’s cord blood
Is banking your child’s cord blood a smart decision for you? Or is it something that your baby does not and might not need? The answer to this is not a simple and straight forward one. To get to the point where you can decide to be or not to be, let’s first see what is cord blood?
What is there in Umbilical Cord Blood?
Blood in umbilical cord, commonly known as cord blood, contains stem cells. Stem cells are immature cells that can morph into all types of blood cells that exist in the body. As a result, stem cells can be useful if your baby, or someone else in the family, needs to be treated for diseases related to blood and immune system. While there are other ways of blood transplant to treat these diseases, cord blood provides an easy way because one does not need to look for a blood match.
Which diseases can be treated with Umbilical Cord Blood?
As of today, three are around 80 diseases can be cured with umbilical cord blood stems cells which includes wide ranges of cancers including blood cancer Leukemia, blood diseases, sickle cell anemia, and genetic diseases.
With help of cord blood transplant, stem cells are infused to patient’s bloodstream to heal and repair the damaged tissues and cells which creates healthy new immune system.
2 Facts you must know about cord blood stem cell use
1. In many cases the stem cells cannot be used for the treatment on same baby. E.g. Genetic diseases or Leukemia because the same blood may re-establish the same immune system resulting in no better health state.
2. Similarly if the transplant is needed for somebody else in family and the patients and baby shares the same genes then it is likely that the blood cannot be used for transplant.
Are cord blood cells more effective in treatment?
Answer to that is a big yes. In most cases, cord blood cells have proved more effective. In addition, there is research on to find cure for certain types of cancer using cord blood cell. In that sense, cord blood might just hold promise in the future.
Cord blood is commonly used in treating diseases in kids. Since very small amount is taken from the cord, and as cord blood has a limited number of stem cells, there may not be enough to treat an adult.
What if I do not bank baby’s cord blood?
The stem cell banks do claim a list of benefits of storing the stem cells but there are opinions by other experts on remote chances of actual use of stem cell in reality (at least for the same baby).
Note that saving cord blood is more useful if your family has history of “certain” blood diseases that are genetic in nature. If you and your partner’s families do not have this history, you might want to rethink cord blood banking because your child might not need it ever. The diseases that can be treated with a person’s own cord blood stem cells are very rare.
If a child is born with a genetic blood condition, his or her stem cells will also have that condition. Therefore, saving cord blood is not a good idea in such cases.
Keeping in mind that cord blood banking is not very cheap; you may not want to do it.
Why Save Cord Blood?
Many parents save their child’s cord blood even when the family does not have history because they see it as an investment for future. Also if you already a have child or anybody else in family who has a disease which can be treated with stem cells then your doctor might advise you to store the stem cells.
Looking at the new researches going on, we may see more significant uses of the stem cells in future.
Donating the Cord Blood
If in case you decide not to go for stem cell banking, you may want to think over donating it to public stem cell banks. It depends on whether the public donation is possible in place you live. The stem cells from donated cord blood may help a cancer patient to have a healthy life. There is a network of Public stem cell banks (mainly in USA)
At the end, to save or not to save cord blood is your choice that depends on your family’s health profile (especially, blood profile) and your ability to afford cord blood banking. If you can afford it, you might choose to save it even if there is no case of blood-related diseases in your family. Some parents do see cord blood banking as an investment. It makes them feel that they have done everything they could to ensure a healthy life for their child. I am a mother of 2 children. I saved cord blood from my second delivery. There was no specific reason as genetic diseases but I just did it because during pregnancy you worry about ‘What if’ (even if very less likely to happen) situations and solutions.
If you choose to save cord blood of your child, we recommend you ask multiple banks and check cost before you say yes to the first one that knocks your door. Your doctor can also help you decide if cord blood banking is a good idea in your case.
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health