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
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.
Doctors also recommend waiting to clamp the cord so the blood can flow into the baby. This is because the benefits of the extra blood outweigh the benefits of banking the blood on the slight chance that stem cells will be needed someday. The extra blood from the umbilical cord increases the baby's hemoglobin and helps prevent iron deficiency.
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. Umbilical stem cells are collected 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.