How To Understand Cord Blood Storage

Perhaps you heard about it in the news, or maybe from a fellow parent, and now you need more information on how to understand cord blood storage. Here are a few answers to common questions about cord blood storage.

  1. What is cord blood storage? After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is clamped, a small amount of blood is left in the cord and the placenta. Normally the cord and placenta and the blood they carry are disposed of. Instead, this blood can be drained and tested for possible storage in a cord blood bank.
  2. What is the purpose of cord blood storage? Cord blood can be used in the same situations a bone marrow transplant is used. In a number of blood diseases such as leukemia, a patient's own blood cells become unhealthy. The transplant of blood-forming cells from marrow or cord blood can allow them to form healthy blood cells of their own.
  3. Is it true that cord blood storage is related to stem cell research? It is true that cord blood transplants, like bone marrow transplants, are done to transfer healthy stem cells to the recipient. However, these are hematopoetic stem cells which are completely unrelated to the pluripotent stem cells that are currently the subject of so much controversy.
  4. Is a cord blood transplant the same as marrow transplant? The stem cells in cord blood are more primitive than those in bone marrow, which is both good and bad. There is a lower possibility of rejection, allowing cord blood to be transplanted to a wider range of recipients than bone marrow. However it also takes longer for the cord blood to do the same job as bone marrow, thus leaving the recipient in a vulnerable state for longer.
  5. Is cord blood donation dangerous? Cord blood donation poses no risks to either the mother or the child.
  6. Is cord blood storage free? If you store your baby's cord blood in a private storage facility for use by your own family, you will have to pay for storage. However, if you donate your baby's cord blood to a public facility to be used by anyone who needs it, you do not pay storage costs. For more information on public vs. private storage, see How To Find a Cord Blood Bank.
  7. Am I guaranteed access to cord blood storage? No. Some communities do not have public blood cord storage facilities, and the cost of private storage can be substantial. In some difficult births, cord blood extraction is not possible. In other cases, not enough blood can be collected. It is also possible that family or personal medical history will make the donor ineligible.
  8. How long is cord blood stored? Current studies show cord blood can be stored with good results for up to ten years. Ongoing studies are examining whether longer storage is possible.
  9. When should I start looking into cord blood storage? It is recommended by the National Marrow Donor Program that a cord blood bank be contacted by the 34th week of pregnancy.

Cord blood donations are currently far below the demand, particularly donations from races other than Caucasian.  The process is safe and, if you donate to a public bank, is free. And you just might save someone's life.


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