Umbilical cord blood banking is the process of saving and storing cord blood at the time of birth for its therapeutic stem cells.
Umbilical cord blood banking is something you might want to talk to your doctor about before your baby is born. Cord blood is the blood in your baby's umbilical cord following birth that is usually discarded. However, some parents are now saving and storing cord blood because it has been found to be rich in stem cells.
Stem cells are the building blocks of the blood and immune systems. They can divide to become other types of cells. The stem cells found in umbilical cord blood and bone marrow can divide and become all three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Stem cells are able to restore function to the blood-making system and immune system. This is especially valuable when the systems have been damaged by radiation or chemotherapy. In a stem cell transplant, patients with a marrow or blood disease (such as leukemia) first undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to wipe out their diseased blood or marrow cells. Then, blood stem cells from a healthy donor are transplanted into the patient, where they grow and develop into healthy marrow and blood cells.
Stem cells are currently used in the treatment of nearly 40 life-threatening diseases including certain cancers (such as leukemia) and immune and genetic disorders. And researchers are now looking for ways to use cord blood to address medical problems such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.
How Umbilical Cord Blood Banking Works
The blood collection process is easy and painless, and it does not interfere with the delivery or care of your newborn. (The collection process is essentially the same with a cesarean birth as it is for a natural birth.) After your baby is born, but before the placenta is delivered, your obstetrician or midwife cleans a 4- to 8-inch area of umbilical cord with an antiseptic solution and then inserts the blood bag needle into the umbilical vein. When the blood has been collected, the blood bag is clamped, sealed and labeled. The collection typically takes two to four minutes. Two tubes of maternal blood are also drawn at this time. The procedure is painless and noninvasive. There is no risk to you or your child.
The cells in your blood cord sample must then be processed and frozen within 48 hours by a laboratory specially equipped to handle umbilical cord blood banking.