Donating cord blood is what today's medical practitioners and doctors are advising yet-to-be parents across the world. Besides giving birth to a new life, pregnancy gives new hope for the survival of existing lives that are combating malignant ailments. Yes, the stem cells contained in the newborn baby's umbilical cord can help cure patients suffering from leukaemia, severe anaemia or acute disorders of the immune system. As researchers are coming up with newer advancements in treatment with blood forming cells, they strongly advocate the need for cord blood and tissue donation.
There was a time when the umbilical cord and the placenta received the least importance and were thrown away as waste. Understanding what these umbilical cord cells can do for patients suffering from various types of blood disorders, diseases of the immune system, spinal cord disorders has reversed the scenario. Doctors are now treasuring these cells instead of discarding them.
Simultaneously, parents-to-be are also shedding their inhibitions about the procedure of cord blood collection. Cord blood is collected AFTER the baby is born and before the placenta is delivered. In some cases, it is done after the placenta is delivered too. The collection process entails no risk or pain for either the mother or the new born baby. Blood banks, where donors decide to preserve their cells, supply advanced equipment for safe collection of cord blood cells. The umbilical cord blood stem cells can be collected regardless of the birth procedure. Mothers of both vaginal deliveries and caesarian deliveries can collect their babies' stem cells with no changes in the procedure of delivery.
Stem cells found in babies' umbilical cords contain similar hematopoietic features that bone marrow stem cells possess. However, umbilical cord blood is richer in stem cells as compared to the bone marrow samples. These umbilical cord stem cells can produce any type of tissue or organ that includes three types of blood cells, which are red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Therefore, if your family has a history of or a family member has a medical condition that can be cured by bone marrow stem cell transplant like leukemia, Fanconi's Anemia, thalassemia, aplastic anemia, metabolic storage disorders or any immunodeficiency disorders and other genetic disorders, opting for cord blood transplant can prove to be a wiser decision.
Finding a matching donor is a major issue nowadays especially if the patient is from an ethnic minority group in the country where he resides. Among them, African-American, Hispanic, Native American patients and patients having an origin of mixed races and ethnicity face the biggest hurdle of finding a matching bone marrow cell donor. If one of your family members has a condition that requires a transplant, donate cord blood cells. To find matching bone marrow stem cells is quite difficult, whereas, stem cells of umbilical cords show 25% greater chances of matching with the babies' parents and siblings. In fact, your baby can be his own donor in cases of emergency.
The modern system works by recruiting pregnant mothers to place their child's umbilical cord into the store once the child is born. The human placenta and cord contain many stem cells: these cells can be harvested by experts, stored in extremely cold conditions, and then used later when needed. There are hospitals that participate in collection programs; such hospitals work with the network of banks in the United States, as well as with the network of international registries. There are also private institutions that pregnant mothers can go to for this specialized kind of storage and /or donation.
If you are an expectant mother, you can look for a bank or designated donation hospital in your community. At present, there are only a few cord blood banks in the U.S., especially since they need expertise and finances to function. A mother can pay to have her specimen stored. However, there is no cost if you give it as a donation. The recipient medical facility covers the financial cost of processing storing the material. Most people donate, rather than pay storage fees for years and years. But some establishments even have the option of collecting and storing a specific child's cord blood exclusively for the family's use, but this option will entail payment of a processing and storage fee.
Donating to a medical bank is safe: there are no risks posed by such a procedure to you or your child, as the material is taken after your child is born. In the past, this material was simply thrown away. Now it is realized to be of value and could save someone's life. If you have a complicated birth, your doctor is obligated not to collect the material for donation. You also have the choice of donating to a public or private bank. If you choose to donate it to a public bank, the umbilical cord blood will be made available to any patient who will require it for a transplant, or to any research facility that might need it for scientific investigation.
Not all material is fit for donation. When the umbilical cord and placenta are removed from the child after birth, the blood from them is drained and is then taken to a storage facility. There must be a good amount of material drained in order for it to be stored. The health and lifestyle history of the family, and, most importantly, the mother who has just given birth, must meet a certain set of guidelines. There should be no signs of possible infections. Once the material is stored and analyzed in a public bank, facts about it will be placed on a registry that is made available to medical facilities all around the world.
Cord blood can survive up to a decade in storage, although research is still ongoing on how units can be better stored as a reserve for when patients are much older. There is currently a need for expectant mothers of African American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Native American lineage to donate. This is because certain traits may be race-specific, and many people requiring cord blood for transplants might find it difficult to get a tissue match in the cord blood banks unless there is a good mix of cultural diversity in the donations.
The cord blood banking industry is introducing several convenient schemes to encourage more people to donate cord blood, to ensure their family members' and relatives protection from various malignant diseases.
Once always discarded into the trash bin, the blood derived from umbilical cords is today treasured for its cord blood stem cells that provide hope to innumerable patients suffering from serious diseases. Some people prefer cord blood banking for future use by them or members of their family. Those who cannot afford or do not want to spend on cord blood preservation in cord blood banks can opt to donate cord blood and tissue.
If you can donate your child's umbilical cord blood, then go ahead and do so, and you might be helping to save a life. Much like when you may have donated blood to a hospital blood drive, it is a kind thing to do for another person you will never even meet. Your personal information will not be divulged and will be kept in confidential records at the bank. Your donation, moreover, will help researchers do more work as they investigate the benefits of stem cells; and more transplant patients and other people who might need the important medical material can have a new lease on life, thanks to you.