What is Cord Blood and Why Should I Consider Donating it?
Most of us are familiar with bone marrow and blood donations. Cord blood donations are along the same lines as these when it comes to their use. The blood found in the umbilical cord and placenta shortly after childbirth contains stem cells that are useful for treating many diseases. These cells are able to grow into healthy blood cells and immune system cells, among others. Because of this, the blood can be used to help with treating more than eighty different diseases and conditions and is even used as a substitute for bone marrow transplants. In more than half of all cases, after giving birth, the placenta and cord which nurtured your baby for months are typically discarded. Choosing to donate the blood instead doesn’t cost the new mother anything at all, nor does it cause any discomfort, and it could be incredibly beneficial for someone who needs it. Patients with conditions such as leukemia and lymphoma, cancers which can benefit from the blood, typically don’t have a donor in their immediate family. This means that they’re relying on someone to donate to a public bank.
How are cord blood cells collected?
Cord blood cell collection is a risk-free and painless process for both mother and baby. After delivery, the umbilical cord is clamped and then cut, as usual. A needle is then used to withdraw the remaining 50 to 200 ml of blood from inside the umbilical cord vein into a collection bag. The collection bag is then labeled and shipped to a processing facility where it will be processed, freezes and stored for future use.
Public vs. Private Cord Banking
When it comes to donating, there are two approaches to do so: public donation and banking and private. Private cord banking may seem more appealing at first glance. By going with this approach, cord blood and its stem cells can be banked and saved for the baby or immediate family members if the need ever arises. Unlike public banking however, this approach is at a fairly high cost to the family, and this combined with medical specifics make public banking a more desirable choice. First of all, it’s important to note that many diseases that can be treated with cord blood shouldn’t be treated with blood that originally came from the same person. If their immune system has already failed to fight the disease, then re-introducing their own blood isn’t likely to help. Any genetic conditions would also be present in the cord stem cells, which means that genetic diseases cannot be treated with the patient’s own cord cells. If an immediate family member has a high-risk of needing a transplant, then private banking may be beneficial. However, even siblings aren’t necessarily going to be eligible matches, and parents are even less likely to be able to use their child’s stored blood. With more distant relations, a public bank is probably much more likely to have a good match. Another aspect to consider is cost. Private cord banking will cost you a fairly large up-front fee as well as an annual maintenance cost. Public cord banking, on the other hand, isn’t going to cost you anything at all, and there is very little you’ll have to do effort-wise, either.
Can Anyone Donate?
Unfortunately, not all willing donors are able to donate. There are a variety of reasons why you may not pass the screening to donate, but these are all in place to protect you and the person who needs a transplant.
There are very few cases in which cord blood donation despite the health of both mother and child can not be performed. This is especially the case if the pregnant woman has received blood products in the weeks before the birth, including the anti-D prophylaxis for rhesus incompatibility. Moreover, if you’re having multiples or give birth prematurely, then you won’t be able to donate. Many illnesses, diseases and even medications can also bar you from donating.
Not all hospitals are able to process cord donations, so you’ll want to investigate this as well. Talk to your doctor or midwife to make sure that donating is an option for you and to begin the process if you’re able to do so.
Related Content: The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
In the past, the common practice was to pass Dad the surgical scissors and have him perform a quick snip just before the newborn babe was whisked away to be cleaned, measured and dosed with vitamin K. Any delay in cord cutting was viewed as unnecessary in promoting general health for the baby or mother. However, recent research suggests that a delay of even three minutes can have a significant positive impact on infants.