Umbilical cord blood can be life-saving. Since 1988, stem cells have been collected from the umbilical cord and placenta shortly after childbirth and used to treat severe and even life-threatening conditions, from cancer and blood disorders to autoimmune diseases and more.
Many birthing people include their intentions to save cord blood in their birth plan, so that they can preserve it for future use by their child or another family member.
Cord blood banking is a personal choice, with many factors to consider. Here is an overview of the process to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Unlike other types of cells that serve very specialized functions, stem cells can adapt to become just about any type of cell or tissue in the body. They are unique in their ability to self-renew and regenerate, making them a valuable resource for medicine.
The placenta and cord blood are rich in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The placenta is also rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These stem cells are multipotent and can develop into any cell type within a family of tissues.
Hematopoietic stem cells have already been used to treat genetic disorders like leukemia, some cancers, and some inherited disorders.
In the process of cord blood banking, stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord, and sometimes the placenta, and sent to a facility for long-term storage. The procedure, performed shortly after birth, involves extracting blood from the umbilical cord, which would otherwise be discarded.
If you decide to save your cord blood, your healthcare provider will use a needle to extract approximately 40 ml of blood after clamping and cutting the umbilical cord. This process is painless for both you and your baby.
Once the sample arrives at the lab, it will be tested for diseases to ensure it's safe for transplantation. The blood cells are then separated and removed to reduce stem cell contamination and optimize their condition. The processed cord blood is stored at -190°C (374°F) until needed for treatment.
There are many potential uses of cord blood stem cells. They have long been used in transplant medicine and are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat over 80 medical conditions, including:
In addition, there are over 1,000 ongoing stem cell clinical trials. Many of these trials are focused on regenerative medicine, exploring how stem cells can repair or replace cells affected by the disease.
While banking cord blood for future cell-based treatments can be life-saving, there are many factors to consider before you decide to move forward with the process.
Cord blood banking can potentially protect your family’s health. Hematopoietic stem cells — the type of stem cell found in umbilical cord blood and tissue — maintain optimal blood production.
They can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, effectively treating several conditions that could affect your baby or an immediate family member.
Private storage of cord blood can be a significant financial investment, making the process cost-prohibitive for many families.
While some companies charge a hefty fee, there are affordable options, like Anja Health. The Anja Health Stem Cell Safe is $199 upfront, with storage plans starting at $35 per month for eight years (which covers twenty years of storage with the option to renew).
Whether or not you decide to bank your umbilical cord and/or placenta, it's best to start thinking about this option during your second trimester.
Take your time researching cord blood banks. They’ll be protecting an immensely valuable resource for years to come, so it’s important to choose the one you trust.
During this process, consider your needs and what companies can provide. Affordability, flexibility, and reliability are all important factors to take into account.
Once you've decided, order a stem cell safe from your bank of choice. Delivery usually takes a few days, but most private banks offer rush delivery of a collection kit if you make a last-minute decision.
Anja Health is the first affordable stem cell safe that collects and stores umbilical cord and placenta stem cells for future cell-based treatments.
Founder Kathryn Cross launched the company after her family could not find a cord blood match that would have saved her brother’s life.
Now, Anja Health is on a mission to make blood cord banking more accessible & more affordable to all parents–regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or income.
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