Celebrating National Cord Blood Awareness Month

July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month!

Now that parents are expecting their bundle of joy, preparing for the baby is what comes next.

Deciding for baby names and shopping for baby things (a crib, clothes, a stroller) are what takes up the time while waiting for that BIG day. One thing that parents don’t usually decide on is whether to save or discard cord blood.

More often than not, we think that saving the baby’s umbilical cord blood is insignificant or that it should be thrown away. But cord blood can do so much for people who need the substance found only in cord blood. Read on and save for the future.

Even the blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord is a source for a  cure for some illnesses.

What is cord blood?
Umbilical cord blood is the blood that stays in the placenta and is found in the cord after childbirth. The cord blood is a rich source of stem cells which are the body’s building blocks for organs, tissue and blood that have the ability to grow into blood and immune system cells. Cord blood is made up of pristine stem cells that have the ability to find injured cells and tissue in the body and start a healing process.

Because of this, cord blood is often used as substitute for bone marrow in stem cell transplants. A newborn’s cord blood provides healing as it can cure blood disorders, cancers, metabolic and genetic disease. Using the regenerative factor of stem cells from the cord blood is a new branch of science where treatments using the cord blood is given.

Why save cord blood?

As parents, we would like to think that we can protect our children from anything that can cause them harm. Whether we like it or not, we cannot foresee the future.

Saving your baby’s cord blood is a type of insurance for the whole family. Stem cell rich cord blood is a valuable resource for a cure when needed. This is because the stem cells can effectively treat certain diseases of the parent or a sibling.

Immediate family members who are in need of a stem cell transplant are likely candidates for the stem cells from the banked cord blood. There is always a 25% chance that cord blood will be a perfect match for a sibling. Though cord blood is less likely to be a good match for more distant relatives, stored cord blood from other donors will draw up a match.

When you bank your baby’s cord blood to public blood bank, someone who has a life-threatening disease may benefit from it, provided that they are matched. Finding a donor-recipient match used to be a challenge for cord blood banks, but now the odds of finding a suitably-matched, publicly-donated cord blood unit is high as inventories of public cord blood banks continue to grow.

Stem cells from cord blood transfused

Illnesses like cancer and blood disorder require chemotherapy and radiation, these treatments kill not only the diseased cells in the body, but they can also kill many good cells in the process. The healthy cells that die are usually the bone marrow- the place where blood is manufactured.

When healthy stem cells die, patients are transfused with stem cells from a donor whose specimen closely matches theirs. The blood-forming stem cells from the donor are transplanted into the patient and the cells will manufacture new, healthy blood cells and improve the patient’s blood-producing and immune system capability.

Deciding on cord blood banking 
About 3 months before your scheduled delivery, talk with your doctor about your decision to donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood. Not all hospitals offer cord blood banking, so you must enroll in an American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accredited cord blood bank before your baby is due.

Parents should know that cord blood collection is safe and risk-free for both the mother and baby. Cord blood collection happens immediately after the birth of the baby and it is advised that the cord blood is acquired while the placenta remains in utero.

But remember: Cord blood banking is not a routine in hospitals or home deliveries so don’t expect that your baby’s cord blood is saved automatically after giving birth. This is a choice to be made by expectant parents and therefore must be planned for ahead of time.

In private hospitals, collection of cord blood is done by the patient’s obstetrician or attending midwife. But in public hospitals, collection of cord blood is carried out by a cord blood collector -these are the contractors that you agreed to save your baby’s cord blood.

It is encouraged for the collector to collect as much cord blood as possible. The whole process only takes about three minutes and does not affect or change the birthing process in any way.

Cord Blood Collection

The journey of your baby’s cord blood doesn’t stop after collection. There are things that are done to ensure it is safe to be used for transplant.

  • After the cord blood unit arrives at the cord blood bank, it is tested to ensure it has enough blood-forming cells for a transplant and if it is free from contamination. If there are too few cells, the blood may be used for research purposes.
  • For cord blood banks like Be The Match Registry, the cord blood unit is registered in their listing of potential marrow donors and patients in need of a transplant. The cord blood is identified by a number to protect the family’s privacy.
  • It is then frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer and stored.

Saving your baby’s cord blood is one major decision that must be thought over. Like blood donation, soon-to-be parents wouldn’t be thinking of donating their baby’s cord blood unless asked. Not too many people know that a gold mine of cure is in the blood that would be discarded if parents don’t opt for cord blood donating.

Don’t miss the chance to save lives, register to Donate your baby’s cord blood now and make your baby a hero in his own little way!

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