Cord Blood Banking

Are you trying-to-conceive or already pregnant? If so, then you know that caring for your baby begins even before conception. That's why moms-to-be help ensure the health of their baby by using prenatal vitamins with folic acid, eating right, exercising regularly, visiting a doctor often, and focusing on a healthy lifestyle.

But what if you could protect the future health your baby, as well as protect the future health and wellness of his/her siblings?

For many couples, cord blood banking is the solution, offering a vital chance to protect your family from potential disease and serious illnesses.

What is Cord Blood Banking?

Cord blood banking is, very simply, the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood. When your baby is born, the cord blood is carefully collected and professionally stored (cryopreserved) in special cord blood banks for future family medical uses (for both your child and other family members). Collecting the cord blood for storage is easy, quick, painless, and 100% safe for both mother and child.

Cord blood is the blood located in the umbilical cord. Throughout your pregnancy, your umbilical cord is the connective pathway that brings life-giving nutrients and oxygenated blood to your developing baby. Instead of breathing air or eating, your unborn child receives everything he or she needs to grow healthy from the transfer of blood through the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is the tender lifeline between mother and child.

When your baby is born, it's simple and quick to simply collect the blood remaining in the umbilical cord for storage - or banking.

Cord blood is unique - and very valuable for future medical purposes - because it is a source of vital stem cells. Stem cells, as you may know, are like the general "building block cells" for the body. They can develop into different, specialized cells like blood cells, or brains cells, or muscle cells. It's this adaptability to develop into different "specialized cells" which make stems cells so essential for many medical treatments and transplants.

Stem cells are what make cord blood important for your family. The stem cells in cord blood can be used to help fight illness and serious disease. Cord blood stem cells, if banked, can be used years after the child is born to treat diseases like leukemia, some cancers, and genetic disorders that may impair the immune system. Because stem cells are like "building block cells", they can be used to treat different illnesses through stem cell transplantation.

Adult vs. Cord Blood Stem Cells

You have likely heard of bone-marrow transplants. Bone marrow contains adult stem cells. What makes a baby's cord blood unique is it is a very rich source of stem cells, yielding far more stem cells than bone-marrow. Not only is cord blood a richer source, adult stem cells are more likely to exhibit abnormalities in DNA caused by aging, toxins in food, water, and the environment, exposure to sunlight. DNA abnormalities are often caused simply by the natural process of growing older.

In treating illnesses, using family cord blood will ensure a much greater chance that the donor blood will "match" and decrease the chances of negative immune responses, transplant rejections, or associated complications. If your child ever requires cord blood, he or she will have a 100% donor match, as he or she is the donor herself (for more on cord blood criteria matching, please read more below)

When comparing cord blood and bone marrow, cord blood is preferred in numerous medical contexts and circumstances. In transplants, cord blood is less likely to cause negative immune responses like GVHD (graft vs. host disease), which can be fatal. Proper matching between the donor and recipient is also increased as cord blood stem cells are "younger" and therefore more adaptable or flexible in their in new host. For the same reasons, cord blood stem cells are more likely to regenerate than bone marrow stem cells. Also, bone marrow donation may require invasive and painful procedures.

Banked cord blood is also an immediately available source of stem cells, with a higher likelihood of donor/recipient matching. If your baby or identical twin needs her/his cord blood in the future, there is a 100% chance of matching. For fraternal twins and family members (parents), the chances of donor/recipient matching are exponentially higher when contrasted with non-familial sources of stem cells. As your cord blood is stored, your baby (or family member) will not need to find a matching donor, and this is particularly important in serious medical contexts for illnesses that require urgent or immediate treatment.

There are other medical circumstances, however, in which bone marrow may be preferred.

Cord Blood and Future Uses

While the most common reason people store cord blood is to have access to regenerative medicine and transplants, cord blood stem cells may be used, in the future, for more and more illnesses and yet unanticipated treatments. According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), cord blood stem cells may eventually be used to treat spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease.

Banking Cord Blood

Risk-free, quick and easy, banking cord blood is an increasingly popular alternative to ensure the future health of your baby and family members. For private use, cord blood is frozen and stored in a private cord blood bank. Private cord blood banking guarantees the cord blood stem cells are available only to you, the family, and this ensures a 100% chance of donor/recipient match in the case of your baby's own use, and a 25% chance of donor/recipient match in the case a brother or sister may need the cord blood for transplant.

There are some down sides to cord blood banking. The price can be prohibitive for many couples and many insurance companies do not aid in paying for cord blood banking under their general coverage. There is also only a slim chance that you or a sibling will ever need the cord blood (hopefully). However, the opportunity to preserve cord blood stem cells for your family affords something beyond a hopeful statistical grace: It brings security, peace of mind, and the comfort of knowing that, if there should ever be a need, cord blood stems cells are just a telephone call away.

> Fertility Acupuncture
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> Pregnancy Health and Diet
> Yoga for Pregnancy
> Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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By TTC veteran and mother of two, Elizabeth Andrews.