Umbilical cord blood, also called cord blood, is the blood left over in the umbilical cord after birth. It is an excellent source of stem cells that can be used to treat over 80 different diseases including cancer and some metabolic disorders. It is preferable to bone marrow as a source of stem cells for transplant because the cells are not pre-programmed by age.
Why should you save your baby’s cord blood? Cord blood has successfully treated diseases such as type I diabetes, cerebral palsy and leukemia. It offers peace of mind to parents and ensures that the stem cells are readily available should there ever be a need. There is also the possibility that stem cells may be able to treat diseases in adults such as type II diabetes, heart disease and even stroke. Currently, there are only enough stem cells in one cord blood unit to treat one patient.
Collecting Cord Blood
Cord blood is easily collected and poses no threat to either mother or child. At the time of birth, and prior to delivery of the placenta, approximately four to eight inches of the umbilical cord is cleaned with an antiseptic. A needle attached to a blood bag is then inserted into the umbilical vein. Gravity forces the blood to flow into the bag until the bag is full. The needle is removed, and the bag is clamped shut, sealed and labeled prior to storage. The blood is transferred to the storage facility via medical courier. The whole process takes about two to four minutes and is completely painless. At the same time, three tubes of maternal blood will be drawn for testing prior to storage. Cord blood is stored cryogenically, which keeps the stem cells viable for years. When stored properly, cord blood does not expire.
Things to Consider
After you’ve chosen to collect your baby’s cord blood, there are a few things to consider when choosing a collection company. For example, the anticoagulant used in the collection bag is an important distinction. Many companies use the anticoagulant Heparin, which can damage stem cells. Heparin is not FDA approved for cord blood collection and contains animal byproducts.
Citrate phosphate dextrose, or CPD, is the gold standard in the cord blood industry. It contains no animal byproducts and has the added benefit of preserving stem cells, while it prevents clotting. Most companies use CPD in their collection bags, but it is important to verify this before choosing a company.
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