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Finally Pregnant! Is Cord Blood Banking for You?


After fertility treatments culminate with a successful birth, couples often look to ways in which they may guard against a child’s future health issues. One way you can do this is by saving your child’s "cord blood" through cord blood banking. Cord blood is the blood that remains in a baby’s umbilical cord after it is cut following delivery. Rich in stem cells, this blood may be used in medical treatments for the child or for related family members. While the umbilical cord and placenta were routinely discarded after birth, in recent years, more and more parents are storing the cord blood because of its potentially life-saving properties.

For parents who conceived their children through IVF using anonymous egg donors or sperm donors, the banking process has several advantages. It may be the only option to secure a genetically-related sample of cord blood cells for a child, when the medical history of the egg or sperm donor is incomplete. Health surveys for the donor may not have been completely thorough, or donor diseases may not have manifested themselves at the time of donation. Cord blood would be beneficial in these scenarios because it provides “insurance” in case certain diseases were to manifest.

Cord Blood and Stem Cells

The reason cord blood is so significant is because it contains stem cells. Often called “master cells,” stem cells have the ability to grow into other kinds of cells, such as brain, muscle, and heart cells. These cells can then form other tissues, organs, and systems in the body.

Stem cells are also found in bone marrow, and doctors have used them for years to boost the immune systems for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Stem cells found in cord blood have certain advantages over those found in bone marrow. Cord blood stem cells are unique because they reproduce quicker, have immunological immaturity, and have not yet been exposed to many viruses or much aging. Additionally, harvesting stem cells from cord blood is an easier, safer, and non-invasive process.

Possible Uses of Cord Blood

Because of these properties, many parents consider banking their children's cord blood. Collecting this cord blood is the only opportunity parents will have to save stem cells from their child’s birth. Cord blood can be used for disease and injury treatment, both in transplant medicine and regenerative medicine.

Cord blood may be used to treat over 80 diseases. These include blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphomas, other cancers like brain tumors or renal cell carcinoma, bone marrow failure disorders, hemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell disease, inherited metabolic disorders, and inherited immune system disorders.

Cord blood is also used in restorative medicine by repairing damaged tissues or organs in case of injury and disease. There are many uses for cord blood in restorative medicine that are still in development, such as treatments for brain injuries, juvenile diabetes, congenital heart defects, and spinal cord injuries.

The potentially life-saving applications of cord blood extend not only to the baby, but also to his or her biologically family as well. Immediate family members, especially siblings, may match the cord blood enough to use it for transplant medicine.