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Cord Blood: What Should I Know?

Cord blood is simply the blood from the umbilical cord and placenta. In the past, this has all been thrown away after giving birth, but we now know that this blood is rich with stem cells. Today, you can make the choice of what to do with this blood – given its wide variety of uses. Collection of cord blood is completely safe and pain-free.

According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, the stem cells in cord blood differ from others because they are younger and have had less exposure to illness or environmental factors. There are also about 10 times as many stem cells as there are in bone marrow.

Banner Health’s perinatologist, Dr. Jordan Perlow, and Shannon Heronema Garcia, a director of nursing, share their expertise on the subject.

What is the benefit of cord blood?

The blood that can be collected from the umbilical cord has many different uses. The stem cells found in cord blood are used for “hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that the stem cells can form into new blood cells for those in need of regeneration of these cells.

This transplantation can help those with leukemias, lymphomas and other blood or genetic disorders.

Dr. Perlow mentions that beyond these approved uses of the stem cells in cord blood, there is a great possibility for stem cells to help many other disorders in the future. These include autism, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and degenerative joint diseases.

So, how does cord blood banking work?

When it comes to the third trimester, it is suggested that you decide on whether you will be collecting the cord blood. There is no standard recommendation, but there are two available options if you decide to collect.

Private/Family Banking:

This means that once the cord blood is collected, it will be saved for use within your family. This can be an excellent just-in-case resource, and many consider it as a type of insurance because the success rate of a family transplant is much higher.

Dr. Perlow suggests that family history be taken into consideration. If there is something in the family that can be treated with the stem cells, then it might be a great idea to bank this way.

There can be a cost associated with this option, however. It is important to do your research and decide if this is the right option for you.

Public Banking:

This is the second option regarding banking cord blood. This will be a donation of the cord blood for those in need, and donation is free.

The blood will be tested to assure it is suitable for a transplant, and many times donated blood that is not considered suitable will typically be used for research.

Dr. Perlow mentions that cord blood donations for many minority groups are needed much more than for Caucasians. People of diverse racial backgrounds are likely to need a transplant from someone of similar background. If you fit this description and will not be banking privately, consider public donation.

Learn more about the benefits of banking cord blood by visiting bethematch.org.

What about delaying cord cutting?

Recently, there has been discussion on when exactly to cut the umbilical cord or delay cutting. Both Shannon and Dr. Perlow say to follow the guidelines in terms of when to clamp and cut. This ranges from 30 seconds to one minute.

Dr. Perlow notes that for premature babies a longer delay in cord cutting is beneficial, but for normal-sized babies the benefit is less clear beyond the recommended time range.

Does a delay in cord cutting prevent collection?

No, collection is still possible if you delay the recommended amount of time – the sooner the collection, the more stem cells that will be collected.

To learn more about your options, be sure to talk with your obstetrician. To find one near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

Parenting Pregnancy Women's Health

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