Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, immature cells that can grow into red or white blood cells or clotting cells. Stem cells are now used to treat a limited number of conditions, such as leukemia. They may someday be grown and used to treat many chronic diseases. The cord blood is drawn from the umbilical cord and placenta after the cord has been clamped and cut. You may be able to donate the blood or, for a fee, have it frozen and preserved by a private cord blood bank. This process doesn't affect your or your baby's care.
Doctors recommend that you bank your baby's cord blood only if a family member already has an illness that can be treated with stem cells. If your baby has a condition that is treated with stem cells, he or she would probably need stem cells from someone else rather than his or her own stem cells.
If you are interested in donating your baby's cord blood to help another person or for research purposes, contact a stem cell registry early in your pregnancy so that you can provide all the needed medical information and sign a consent form.
Early in your pregnancy, think about whether you want to bank your baby's umbilical cord blood. Sometime during your pregnancy, you may get information about cord blood banking from at least one commercial business that provides this service. You can also ask your doctor whether he or she has any recommendations about cord blood banking. Cord blood is collected for banking only if you request the procedure well in advance of your delivery date. It is not a routine procedure. And health plans usually do not cover the cost.
Before your labor and delivery, tell your doctor that you plan to have umbilical cord blood collected. Also make sure that the medical staff attending your childbirth know about this before the delivery.
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology