When a baby’s on his or her way, there is no shortage of resources for single mothers or those who have long-term, committed partners by their sides for planning the labor and delivery.
There are so many things that women need to keep in mind when you’re getting ready for baby. However, one thing that is often overlooked is the decision whether or not to donate your baby’s cord blood. Cord blood comes from a newborn’s umbilical cord and placenta and can be used to treat disease in babies, children and adults.
Choosing whether to bank your cord blood should be an easy decision. Properly stored cord blood can be used either to treat your own family in certain situations when banked privately, or used to potentially treat many other people when donated. As with regular blood donation, there are no ethical implications to cord blood storage. But while it is relatively easy to privately bank cord blood through many advertised services, it’s more difficult to find ways to donate this important resource.
What’s so important cord blood?
Cord blood lingers in the umbilical cord and placenta after a woman gives birth to a baby and is rich with vital nutrients. It also contains stem cells that can in turn be used for a variety of different medical purposes.
Stem cells taken from cord blood are different from embryonic stem cells and – similar to bone marrow – may be used by researchers for potential treatments for cancer, as well as immune deficiency diseases, metabolic disorder and other diseases. The list of potential uses for cord blood expands every year with previously considered “miracle” treatments now within the realm of possibility.
Why don’t more moms donate?
Despite the benefits of storing cord blood, many moms-to-be don’t even think twice about whether it’s important to donate – for most, it’s because they don’t even know that it’s an option.
Less than 200 hospitals in the U.S. have a relationship with a public blood bank that can collect and maintain cord blood, which is one of the reasons why the importance of this donation is frequently overlooked. While some hospitals allow people to send in donations, mail-in programs are not widespread and may be difficult for women to follow through with after labor and delivery.
Some private banks are beginning public donation programs as extensions of their private collections business. Sometimes these banks are referred to as “hybrid cord blood banks” because they handle both private and public cord blood banking— the private collections often help fund the public donations program. These hybrid banks will send a collection kit to you the same as they would for private banking and the hospital would not need to have a direct connection with a particular public cord bank. These types of collections can often be done and processed nationwide.
Additionally, the process of donating may be costly for some families. The process could cost as much as $2,000, and while some government grants exist to lessen the impact, this can still take a toll over time.
If you’ve decided to make the great leap forward and choose to donate your little one’s cord blood, you’ve got some busy weeks ahead of you. In between your newborn preparation, you’ll want to research hospitals that collect cord blood.
From there, you can pick the best one to meet your needs and research the public cord blood bank that works with your hospital of choice. Typically, you should try to make this decision before week 28 of your pregnancy, since banks and hospitals need a few weeks to prepare to collect this.
While you begin working with a public blood bank, you should share your intentions with your healthcare provider. He or she can offer additional insight and can also make sure that the blood is preserved if needed.
You should also be sure to prepare a list of questions for the blood bank you’re working with to gain additional insight into the process. You can get more information on both public and private banking of cord blood at the Save the Cord Foundation.