It is among the most natural things in the world to want the best for your child. From giving them a fantastic chance at life by raising them well to providing for their medial needs, being a parent can be a life-changing and meaningful experience. The trouble that every parent or parents has to figure out is in the level of care to provide. The lines between too little and too much can often become blurred, leading individuals to be confused. This is especially true when it comes to potentially helpful but expensive actions that parents can take early on. Weighing the cost against the potential good becomes a game of finances and frustration.
A perfect example of this is cord blood. With a myriad of potentially useful properties associated with it, collecting cord blood and storing it long-term can be quite expensive. In addition to its cost, many people are unfamiliar with what the practice entails and whether or not the option is available to them.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a moment to discuss saving cord blood. In particular, we will look at what cord blood is, what practice of saving it involves, and even get into the role that the umbilical cord can play in all of this. With any luck, you will leave this review one step closer to knowing if saving this particular kind of blood is right for you and your child.
What Is Cord Blood?
Months before a pregnancy is due, plans are being made. Electrical outlets are being plugged, clothes are being purchased, and expecting parents from around the world eagerly await bringing their bundle of joy into the world. Done for the health and wellbeing of the baby, the above examples represent but a few of the things that parents can do to ensure their child’s health. Growing in popularity, storing cord blood is beginning to be considered just another form of protection, providing insurance for the future if and when something goes wrong.
Cord blood is blood that is taken during birth from the umbilical cord. Immediately after the child is born and the umbilical cord is cut, blood is taken and stored. The reason why cord blood storage is growing in popularity is because it is incredibly high in stem cells. The stem cells in cord blood are considered immature cells that can turn into pretty much anything the body needs. If the child were to ever need blood and had an immune deficiency of some kind, then cord blood could be theoretically used in order to help the child recover.
For some, stem cell transplantation may be life saving. If the child ever needs a stem cell transplant, then it can be especially helpful. In addition, the stem cells taken from the cord blood can help family and relatives of the child as well. Finally, complete strangers can benefit from the stem cells if their blood types match. Stem cells can be a potential aid in helping those recovering from cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. With so much potential good coming from cord blood, it is no wonder that so many parents are thinking about it.
Why Do Some Parents Turn Down Cord Blood?
There are several reasons why parents do not consider or even turn down cord blood. The first is that they simply haven’t heard of the potential benefits. Typically, cord blood is thrown away with all the other medical waste created during pregnancy. It is only recently that doctors have begun discovering the positive effects cord blood can have.
Another reason why parents do not consider cord blood is if the birth is traumatic for the mother. As not all births go as planned, there may be medical risks that have to be considered and take precedence over saving the cord blood. In these cases, the health of the mother always determines getting a viable amount of cord blood.
In addition, many people do not store cord blood due to the costs. First, there is the cost of having the blood taken immediately after a pregnancy. Added to this, the local storage fees, and parents are facing many fees they may not be able to afford. On average, these costs alone can be upwards of $1800. In addition to the cost of collection and local storage, there are also the costs of shipment to long-term storage as well as the yearly fees associated with long-term storage. This cost is around $100 a year. In this case, while parents may want to save cord blood, the cost is still too expensive for some.
The final reason why parents turn down cord blood collection is because it provides only a minimal range of benefits. Research has shown that cord blood as well as saving the umbilical cord is only required in a fraction of all children, making its widespread use and cost unnecessary. Screening for conditions that may come into play with the child, collecting cord blood may only be a good idea if you know that your child may be at a predisposed risk of having something that will require stem cell treatments. These diseases include leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and lymphoma. For more information on this, it is best to consult your doctor and review the options available to you.
What Does The Practice Of Saving Cord Blood Entail?
If you are interested in how to save cord blood, then you will want to know what the procedure will entail. Simply put, the procedure takes place after the baby is born and before the placenta is delivered. The umbilical cord is first clamped and then cut. This is standard even for those who are not delivering a baby. The cord is cleaned thoroughly to help prevent either fungal or bacterial infection. A needle is then placed in the umbilical cord and attached to a collect bag. Using gravity, the cord blood will drain on its own into the bag. To help prevent infection, the entire operation is considered a closed system. Everything required for the operation can be purchased from either your hospital or a private enterprise before the birth. Typically, the kit you purchase will include what you need, as well as a means of temporary storage.
What About The Umbilical Cord?
As mentioned above, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped like normal. In addition, saving umbilical cord blood will not harm the umbilical cord at all. Considered a minimal risk procedure that is far less challenging than collecting bone marrow, this procedure only requires that individuals responsible for the operation be prepared.
Potential Future Benefits
Saving cord blood now may not provide that many opportunities in your child’s early life to be helpful. However, there are chances that as science and medicine advance, new uses for this blood will be discovered. Already, there is progress being made regarding the use of these stem cells in helping people recover from cancer treatments. Potential cures that this blood may be helpful for in the future include Alzheimer’s, diabetes, strokes, heart-failures, and injuries just to name a few. While there is little on the benefits now, who knows what two or three decades worth of medical research and expansion will reveal? It may turn out that saving this blood can be highly beneficial to the child and we simply don’t know it yet.
Where Does This Leave Us?
Wanting to save umbilical cord blood is relatively new. With its high concentration of stem cells, blood taken from the umbilical cord can provide help in any situation where stem cells are needed. Taken for the sake of the child, the stem cells can also provide a means of treatment for family members, as well as strangers. A relatively minor operation for the mother, it is performed after birth and the umbilical cord is cut. Done to minimize the chances of infection, the process is kept as a closed system.
While the potential benefits of cord blood are growing, the current costs as well as low need for this blood is leading many parents to reconsider. As there is still a lot of research yet to be done, many parents are holding off on collecting this blood now until more research can be done to show its benefits. At the same time, due to the need for a birth to occur in order to collect this blood, there is a pressing need by parents to have these questions answered in time for the birth of their baby. As every parent only wants the best for their child, cord blood remains a divisive issue due to its costs and relatively small benefit. That being said, for new parents looking to insure the health of their child in every possible way, cord blood represents another possible means of protection. For now, we must wait until the science develops further before we know for certain whether or not parents should collect cord blood.