Jamal Mourad, D.O., is director of Continuing Medical Education for OB/GYN at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: I’m pregnant, and a friend of mine told me I should look into cord-blood banking. Can you explain what it is and how it would benefit me and my baby?
Answer: Cord-blood banking is something expectant mothers should consider because it can have significant health benefits for a child, family members or individuals with life-threatening illnesses.
The blood that travels between mother and fetus through the umbilical cord is full of stem cells, which can treat serious health conditions because they act as building blocks for organ tissue, blood and the immune system.
Like bone marrow, cord blood offers a guaranteed genetic match and has been used as treatment for as many as 80 various diseases, including leukemia, blood disorders and other cancers. Research has also shown that patients with traumatic brain injuries and juvenile diabetes may benefit from cord blood.
Collecting cord blood is simple, safe and painless to mother and baby. A special process is used to remove blood from the umbilical cord immediately following birth. An expectant mother can choose to preserve cord blood for her own family through a private cord blood bank, or can donate her blood to a public bank for use by others with life-threatening diseases.
If a pregnant mother opts not to bank cord blood, it will be discarded. Though preserving cord blood is a personal choice, pregnant women are encouraged to bank cord blood because of this one-time chance to store life-saving stem cells for future use.