Placental cord blood connects you to your baby before birth, carrying oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus. What many parents don’t realize is that the placenta has the possible for life-saving uses after birth, too, by the time of action of cord blood and stem cell transplants.
Typically, a woman gives birth, delivering the baby first and then the placenta. The placenta and umbilical cord is often discarded along with the hospital’s medical waste. But if parents decide to store the umbilical cord blood prior to delivery, the doctor will collect the placenta, freeze it, and send it to a private or public storage facility.
Why would parents choose to save placental cord blood? This special tissue contains a high, hypoallergenic concentration of fetal (from the baby) and adult (from the mother) blood, plasma, and platelets. Within the placenta and umbilical cord are stem cells, which surgeons can transplant into a person with certain chronic diseases. The stem cells are infection-free, so they can replace the person’s diseased cells.
Who saves umbilical cord blood? Often families with genetic histories of certain diseases, including Fanconi and sickle cell anemia, leukemia or lymphoma, thalassemia, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus, will collect their infant’s placental cord blood. In other situations parents who already have a sick child may save their baby’s cord blood to use for the sibling. Sometimes parents feel strongly that donating to cord edges is the right thing to do. They may not have access to the donation later, but it can be used for children who are sick and are a genetic match.
How much does it cost to bank umbilical? The costs of this course of action vary; there are often startup fees and current fees to keep the cord donation in storage. In the case of public donation, fees are often completely waived to encourage parents to donate stem cells for public research and medical transplants.