Banking Your Baby's Cord Blood - A Serious Option for Pregnant Parents to Consider
Robert Sears, MD
Today's expectant parents are faced with many decisions about the type of birth they want to have: Birthing center or hospital? Epidural or natural? Rooming in with baby or, "Please take that baby to the nursery and let me sleep!"
When my wife was pregnant with our third child, I remember sitting in our obstetrician's (OB) waiting room together while my wife flipped through the latest pregnancy magazine. I wasn't paying much attention because we had already made every possible decision about our birth. We knew exactly what type of birth we wanted, and now it was just a matter of waiting.
"Hey honey, look at this!" I heard my wife say. She showed me an article about cord blood stem cell banking and asked me if we should look into it. What I wanted to say was, "Oh no. Now we have to make another decision about our birth." But what came out of my mouth was "That's interesting dear, but it's way too complicated and probably just a gimmick anyway." Well, my wife read through the article and by the end she was convinced we should do it. It appeared we had made another decision.
Over the next couple of weeks I researched the issue thoroughly. If we were going to bank our baby's cord blood, we were going to do it right. I discovered it was much simpler than I'd imagined. The cord blood wouldn't actually be taken from our baby at all. After the umbilical cord is cut, the blood is drained out of the placenta and remaining umbilical cord, thus the term, "cord blood." This blood is rich in baby's "stem cells," which are immature blood cells that are able to change and mature into any type of blood cell as baby grows, just like bone marrow cells. These cells are preserved in a storage facility, ready for use when needed.
My wife felt strongly about banking the baby's blood because she had cancer as a teenager. She wanted to take every precaution for our kids, and having some cord blood available in case any of them should need it gave her peace of mind. And, she could even use it herself. Of course, we hoped we would never need it for these reasons, but as I read more about stem cells, I found out there were many more uses than just treating cancer. Research is showing promising results using stem cells to treat heart disease and neurological diseases. This is really what got me excited about banking our baby's blood - not just to treat cancer, but for all the other chronic diseases that could possibly be cured or improved with this new and innovative treatment. I decided to invest in our family's future.
The Benefits of Family Cord Blood Banking
Cord blood stem cells are not just for your baby. It's really an investment for the whole family. Virtually all mothers and about half of siblings will be a suitable match for baby's stem cells. And while the chance that any family member will use the cord blood for cancer treatment is very low, the likelihood that it could be used to treat a variety of other diseases is considerable. The list of such diseases is growing every year as researchers study this fascinating field.
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