Blood-forming stem cells, the type of cells collected through the cord blood, have the special ability to develop into different types of blood cells; red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These cells may also have the ability to turn into other types of cells that are not related to blood, but this is something that is unclear right now. Cord blood can be used in place of a bone marrow transplantation. We will dedicate a separate post to the pros and cons of banking cord blood, but first we will look at how it is actually done.
The collection of cord blood requires the umbilical cord to be clamped immediately upon birth to increase the volume of blood collected, and with that the stem cells that are likely to be harvested from it. Upon birth, it is not uncommon for as much as a third of the total blood supply that the baby had access to in utero to be located inside the placenta and the umbilical cord. When left untouched, that blood would flow towards the baby. Premature cord clamping is already an integral part of current medical practice. When you look at cord blood banking from that point of view, nothing special is required on your part or your baby's. A cord blood banking company will take blood from your baby's cord as soon after birth as possible, and will let the parents know if stem cells were successfully recovered some time later.
You can either use the stem cells collected for your own private purposes only, such as when your child falls ill and needs them, or share your stem cells with others in a stem cell donor program. Cord blood can, if you look at cancer treatment, have the potential to save lives. It is up to you, as the parents, to weight the pros and cons and decide whether you want to bank your baby's cord blood. For more articles about labor and birth and the period immediately after, look at what you should pack in your hospital bag, and GBS treatment during labor. In the meantime, we'd love to hear your opinions about cord blood banking!