In recent years, a new option has become available for parents who wish to prepare for every possibility: banking a newborns cord blood.
In the past, the placenta and umbilical cord were routinely discarded after a baby was delivered. Then it was found that these organs contain the same kinds of blood-forming stem cells as bone marrow. The cells can be collected, stored and, if needed, used to treat a range of serious illnesses.
Cord-blood stem cells may be useful when the recipient was the source of the cells or, for some medical conditions, when the stem cells come from a full biological sibling, or even when donated to a stranger through a public bank if the cell type is a close enough match. For many families, knowing they have these access to these cells stored through a private bank if they're ever needed can be reassuring.
Parents who decide to have their newborns cord blood collected and stored must arrange to do so in advance of delivery. The blood is collected soon after birth in both vaginal and cesarean deliveries with a kit ordered ahead of time from a cord-blood bank. The more blood collected, the more stem cells collected.
Once delivered to a private cord-blood bank for the family's future use or to a public repository, the stem cells are separated from the rest of the blood and frozen. If needed, they can be thawed and used as needed. It is believed that the cells can be stored safely and remain effective in treating certain cancers, genetic conditions and other diseases for decades.
Not sure what to do? More about weighing your options.
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