January 21, 2013
Important information for expectant parents
If you're expecting a child, along with the swirl of excitement and preparations, you are also no doubt faced with all sorts of decisions. Breastfeeding, birth options, pregnancy diet, and many other questions must be answered. Some of the issues were probably settled in your mind almost before the question was asked, while others will likely have you researching and weighing advantages and risks before you can make the choice that is right for you.
Over the past couple of decades, there have been exciting advances in technology that have opened up a new question for your consideration - one that has the potential to offer your family the wonderful possibility of being able to fight previously incurable diseases. At the same time, it is also one of the choices surrounded with the most misunderstandings. The question is: Should you consider stem cell banking?
The very mention of "stem cells" has many people recoiling at the thought, but we are not speaking of the harvest of embryonic stem cells. Instead, parents are choosing to save the blood remaining in the umbilical cord after the birth of their child - the "cord blood" - and have it stored in case it is ever needed for medical treatments. The placenta, umbilical cord, and blood was previously discarded as medical waste, but the blood contained in the discarded umbilical cord is a natural source of stem cells.
Within the past twenty years, these umbilical cord stem cells have been successfully used to treat a number of cancers, lymphomas, leukemia, and many other life-threatening conditions. Current research indicates the potential of these stem cells to successfully treat diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and an ever-growing list of diseases, injuries, and conditions that have previously been considered incurable.
As well as umbilical cord blood, parents now also have the option of saving cord tissue, which is the actual umbilical cord itself. The cord tissue contains stem cells as well, although they are of a different type. While stem cells from the blood can produce blood tissues in the human body, those from the cord tissue can develop into skeletal cells, connective tissue cells, heart cells, and more. By saving both types of stem cells, the potential for future treatment options is greatly increased.
If you choose to save stem cells from your baby's birth, you should contact the storage bank for enrollment and collection information. Cost is another factor. Cord blood banking prices usually involve the collection fee and storage for a set amount of time, and an annual fee for maintaining it afterwards (be sure to verify that with the facility). You should also ensure that any facility you are considering is able to quickly and safely process your baby's cord blood as viability decreases over time. Be sure to discuss procedures with a representative and make sure your baby's cord blood will be maintained in the best condition possible, in order to provide your baby and your entire family the greatest chance to benefit from this precious life-giving resource.