When you envision your baby’s birth, you may imagine your doctor holding the baby up and announcing, “it’s a beautiful healthy baby (add gender here)!” The next image is probably that of the baby’s umbilical cord being cut. In that remarkable instant, mother and baby go from being one connected entity to two autonomous beings. What you may not have thought about is how the choice you make about the subsequent moments can be critical. They present the opportunity for your baby’s cord blood to be collected and banked for decades into the future. And the decision to bank your child’s cord blood now may result in saving his or her life later on. Cord blood banks may even save the lives of your other children.
Cord blood flows through your placenta and into the umbilical vein to nourish and oxygenate your baby. It also contains stem cells – more specifically, blood-forming stem cells. These stem cells are a miracle of nature because they can generate all three types of blood cells our bodies need (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). This ability to regenerate blood cells is especially necessary when a child is healing from a potentially fatal cancer like leukemia, a blood disorder such as sickle cell anemia, or certain immune system disorders. If your child is ever diagnosed with one of these fatal diseases, the cord blood you have banked will be used to help save your child’s life. A stem cell transplant will boost the immune system and can help him or her recover from subsequent treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. If you do not bank your baby’s cord blood, you can end up playing a stressful and worrisome waiting game.
When a child needs a stem cell transplant, it can mean waiting for a matching cord blood, or bone marrow, donor and this can take a long time. Sometimes families wait months for a correct match and time is critical when a child is fighting for his or her life. It’s important to note that if you are an ethnic minority, or if your baby was conceived via in vitro fertilization, you might have to wait even longer than normal for an ideal match. Parents who have banked their child’s cord blood have no wait at all. It is one of the best investments you can make for your family.