The consideration to donate cord blood is not the first thing expecting parents think of in the days just before a birth occurs. However, because this ‘byproduct’ of pregnancy is so rich in stem cells that are not created at any other time in life, it makes the liquid a very valuable commodity in the genetic health world.
Cord blood is secured from the biological cord that connects the mother’s placenta to the newborn baby through the belly. As the baby is born and the placenta is expelled, the cord is broken by the birthing process and doctor’s procedure, clamping off the cord stub to the baby. If the cord blood is not harvested, the placenta and cord remains are disposed of as bio-matter after the hospital staff remove them from the room.
However, cord blood stem cells provide critical re-building material that can fend off the damage caused by genetic diseases, cancers, and even immuno-deficiency disorders. The stem cells pulled from the cord blood can be used both for research as well as treatment on afflicted patients.
Public Cord Blood Donation
Public cord blood donation basically involves designating that the discarded cord can be collected by a representative of a blood bank or cord blood saving agency without payment. For the patient, there is no cost, and they get the knowledge of knowing that their donation may have helped someone else’s life.
The donation of cord blood is arranged before the birthing process occurs. The mother makes an appointment with the selected blood bank to be screened. Because a contaminated donation has the potential to harm multiple patients, the screening criteria requires very strict adherence. This means some would-be donators can very well be denied, despite entirely good intentions. However, don’t let this slight possibility dissuade you from setting up a donation. Your cord blood donation can save lives and possibly even your child’s if they ever needed it.
What Happens To The Cord Blood After Donation?
Once the cord blood is collected, it gets deposited in the blood bank in a frozen state after it has been cataloged and entered into the National Marrow Donor Program’s database. Public cord blood banking allows the material to be referenced when needed in an entirely different location of the country. To date, 4,700 cord blood infusions have occurred using the frozen samples registered through the Program. Granted, the utilization may seem small compared to the number of instances other medical treatments garner. However, even saving one young life with donated cord blood is a victory.
Cord blood donation is limited by a lack of awareness of how valuable the blood can be as well as the fact that not many hospitals support the donation process. Additionally, it is expensive for a blood bank to process cord blood, averaging $1,500 per donation. Finally, cord blood needs to genetically match patient demographics in some cases, making successful treatment harder.
It is important to remember that this medical practice is in its infancy. In time it is highly likely that cord blood will be used to help treat many diseases in a growing number of people.