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If you’re expecting a baby, you may have heard about umbilical cord blood banking, among other things as a way to protect your child from illness and harm. This procedure involves taking blood from the umbilical cord at birth and storing it for use at a later date. Because this blood is rich in stem cells, it can be used to treat a child, should anything happen to them in later life. But is baby blood cord banking right for you?
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Cord Blood Cells Can Help Save Lives
Cord blood is rich in stem cells and can be used to aid in the treatment of illnesses like sickle cell anaemia, leukaemia and lymphoma, amongst others. It can also be given to people who have had chemotherapy or radiation treatments to help them recover at a quicker rate. Around 15,000 cord blood transplants have been completed to date, with the treatment being especially popular in the United States and Japan.
The Pros and Cons of Storing Cord Blood
Although cord blood has the same stem cells in it as bone marrow, it is a lot less mature, meaning that a recipient’s body is more likely to accept them than reject them. And, unlike harvesting bone marrow, which can be painful, there is no pain involved for either the mother of the new born baby. If you have a high risk of blood disorders in your family, cord blood can be used to treat these illnesses if required.
However, whilst a child’s body is less likely to reject stem cells from their own umbilical cord, the cord blood that is being used will have the same genetic flaws that could have led to an illness, so stem cells from a donor may be more beneficial. Cord blood can also only be used to treat certain blood disorders, so it may never be required. And, whilst cord blood can be used on siblings of the donor, keep in mind there is only a 25% chance of a match.
Is the Price Worth It?
Harvesting and storing cord blood will not harm the mother or the new born baby, however it is expensive to store cord blood in a private blood bank. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the chances of a child needing to use his own cord blood are around 1 in 200,000. And, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, cord blood has a lifetime of around ten years. Private blood banks charge around $1800 for the initial processing and then charge figures of around $100 a year to store it. This is quite a large amount to pay, when the odds of needing the cord blood are small.
It is possible to store cord blood in a nationwide blood bank. This is free to do, however it can be used by anyone who needs it in the future, rather than it being specifically stored for use by the donor’s family.