YOUR BABY'S CORD BLOOD -
A SERIOUS OPTION FOR PREGNANT PARENTS TO CONSIDER.
Robert Sears, MD
Today's expectant parents are faced with many decisions about the
type of birth they want to have: Birthing center or hospital? Epidural
or natural? Rooming in with baby or, "Please take that baby to
the nursery and let me sleep!"
my wife was pregnant with our third child, I remember sitting in
our obstetrician's (OB) waiting room together while my wife flipped
through the latest pregnancy magazine. I wasn't paying much attention
because we had already made every possible decision about our birth.
We knew exactly what type of birth we wanted, and now it was just
a matter of waiting.
honey, look at this!" I heard my wife say. She showed me an
article about cord blood stem cell banking and asked me if we should
look into it. What I wanted to say was, "Oh no. Now we have
to make another decision about our birth." But what came out
of my mouth was "That's interesting dear, but it's way too
complicated and probably just a gimmick anyway." Well, my wife
read through the article and by the end she was convinced we should
do it. It appeared we had made another decision.
the next couple of weeks I researched the issue thoroughly. If we
were going to bank our baby's cord blood, we were going to do it
right. I discovered it was much simpler than I'd imagined. The cord
blood wouldn't actually be taken from our baby at all. After the
umbilical cord is cut, the blood is drained out of the placenta
and remaining umbilical cord, thus the term, "cord blood."
This blood is rich in baby's "stem cells," which are immature
blood cells that are able to change and mature into any type of
blood cell as baby grows, just like bone marrow cells. These cells
are preserved in a storage facility, ready for use when needed.
wife felt strongly about banking the baby's blood because she had
cancer as a teenager. She wanted to take every precaution for our
kids, and having some cord blood available in case any of them should
need it gave her peace of mind. And, she could even use it herself.
Of course, we hoped we would never need it for these reasons, but
as I read more about stem cells, I found out there were many more
uses than just treating cancer. Research is showing promising results
using stem cells to treat heart disease and neurological diseases.
This is really what got me excited about banking our baby's blood
- not just to treat cancer, but for all the other chronic diseases
that could possibly be cured or improved with this new and innovative
treatment. I decided to invest in our family's future.
Benefits of Family Cord Blood Banking
Cord blood stem cells are not just for your baby. It's really an
investment for the whole family. Virtually all mothers and about
half of siblings will be a suitable match for baby's stem cells.
And while the chance that any family member will use the cord blood
for cancer treatment is very low, the likelihood that it could be
used to treat a variety of other diseases is considerable. The list
of such diseases is growing every year as researchers study this
Attacks. Doctors have infused stem cells into the damaged heart
muscle of numerous heart attack patients to see if the cells would
generate new heart tissue and repair the damage. Results so far
Artery Disease. Doctors have infused stem cells in the hearts
of patients with clogged arteries. The stem cells helped new blood
vessels grow around the blocked arteries, thus improving blood flow
to the areas in the heart at risk of damage.
Disease. Stem cells have been shown to grow new blood vessels
around narrowed or damaged arteries in the limbs and restore impaired
and Brain Damage. Researchers have recently shown in a laboratory
setting that human stem cells can mature into nerve cells. The implication
of this for treating a variety of neurological problems is astounding.
Researchers have shown that infusing human stem cells into rats
improves brain function after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
Sclerosis. Doctors have infused stem cells into patients with
MS and have shown mild improvement in their disease.
disease (heart attacks and strokes) is the number one cause of death.
If stem cell treatments become a viable and routine option for preventing
and treating cardiovascular disease, then having banked stem cells
will be an enormous advantage. If researchers continue to show stem
cells' ability to regenerate damaged or diseased brain tissue, then
the possibility for treating neurological conditions such as MS,
Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's is exciting. Diabetes is another
disease that is affecting more and more people. If stem cells could
regenerate new pancreas tissue, millions of people could benefit.
Who knows where we'll be with stem cell treatments in 10 or 20 years?
and other blood-related disorders. Besides these exciting possibilities,
there are still the current uses for treating certain cancers and
other blood problems. Recent research in the field of Oncology showed
the chance that a person would need to use his or her own banked
stem cells for current treatments by the time they are 21 is one
in 2700, and the chance that a family member could use them is one
in 1400. Stem cells can either be taken from the patient's or a
matching family member's bone marrow, or from stored cord blood.
Here are some benefits when cord blood is used instead of bone marrow:
has shown that survival rates double when a person's own cord
blood or a family member's cord blood is used, compared to using
an unrelated donor sample from a public stem cell bank.
your own private sample ensures immediate availability of a perfectly
bone marrow can also be a source of stem cells if needed, cord
blood stem cells are easier to match for family members, thus
increasing the chance that a family member can receive a related
stem cell transplant.
has shown that patients who receive cord blood stem cell transplants
have a smaller chance of rejecting the cells, compared to bone
marrow stem cell transplants
my pediatric training I spent two months in the Children's Hospital
Bone Marrow Transplant ward. I watched numerous kids undergo these
transplants. Kids who used their own bone marrow, or a family member's
marrow, faired much better. This is one reason I decided to bank
my child's cord blood. It provides some peace of mind that if ever
our family is faced with such a challenge, we will have better treatment
options available to us.
cord blood is collected and stored
Months before your due date, the cord blood bank sends you a collection
kit that contains everything that is needed for the process. The
bank also sends your OB or Midwife instructions to make sure he
or she knows how to collect the blood. When baby is born, and the
umbilical cord is cut, the OB or Midwife collects the blood from
the remaining umbilical cord and placenta (not from baby) into a
syringe or blood bag. The process only takes a few minutes, and
the blood is then set aside until all the birth excitement dies
down. It can even be collected during a C-section. A family member
places the cord blood into the pre-addressed mailing package, and
makes one phone call to a medical courier to pick up the kit. Within
hours the cord blood is picked up and shipped overnight to the cord
blood bank. Once there, it is processed. The stem cells are removed
from the cord blood, and it is placed into deep freeze storage.
Collecting cord blood is simple, completely safe and non-invasive,
and takes very little time.
a cord blood bank
Making the decision to bank our baby's cord blood was easy. Deciding
WHOM we should trust to do the banking was a challenge. There are
several private cord blood companies to choose from, and I spent
days reading their literature and scrutinizing their websites. I
even called each bank and asked some important questions. I was
surprised to learn how different the various institutions are. Some
don't store the cord blood themselves, but are just a middleman
and send your sample to another company for storage. Some companies
aren't even certified as a blood bank. And I was shocked to find
out that some banks have never even had a single stored sample used
for transplant. I learned very quickly that, like most things in
life, you get what you pay for.
all my research, I chose a bank that was, in our opinion, the best
choice-The Cord Blood Registry. Here are some reasons why we chose
has more transplant experience than any other private bank. As
of this writing, they have used 26 stored units for transplants.
All 26 were viable and completely usable. This was important to
me because I felt if a bank has never used a single sample, how
do they know their samples are viable and being stored properly?
was the first cord blood bank to become accredited, and has a
perfect record. Why is this important? Many hospitals won't accept
units for transplant unless the storage facility is an accredited
currently has nearly 50,000 cord blood samples stored, and owns
and operates their own storage facility. They are not just a middle-man.
stores their samples in multiple vials. This is crucial because
it allows one small vial to be unfrozen and tested for matching
BEFORE the entire stored unit is prepared. That way, if a family
member doesn't match, the entire unit isn't wasted. It may someday
also allow more than one person to use the stem cells if the entire
sample isn't needed at once.
is affiliated with the University of Arizona, a well-respected
institution. This gives me confidence that they are a professional
institution that has a long-term interest in stem cell research
and medical applications. It also gives other doctors who are
treating their patients with stem cells confidence to know the
samples are coming from a reputable institution.
CBR is a financially strong company and has been storing cord
blood since 1992. This is crucial because you want your samples
to still be around in 20 years or more.
whether or not to bank your baby's cord blood is a personal decision
and a financial commitment. But parents only have one chance with
each child to take advantage of this technology. You can enroll
anytime during your pregnancy, but the earlier you do so, the more
time you and your labor attendant have to receive the collection
kit. When choosing where to store your child's cord blood cells,
it's important to ask questions and research your decision carefully.
Make sure the choice you make is as serious about storing the cord
blood cells as you are.
more info go to www.cordblood.com
Robert W. Sears, M.D.
W. Sears, M.D., is a Board-certified pediatrician who is in private
practice with his nationally recognized father William Sears, M.D.
and his brother, Jim Sears M.D., in San Clemente, Calif. "Dr.
Bob", as he likes to be called by his little patients, earned
his medical degree at Georgetown University School of Medicine in
1995. He completed his pediatric internship and residency at Children's
Hospital Los Angeles in 1998.
Bob is the proud father of three boys, Andrew, age 11, Alex, age
8, and Joshua, age 2. He and his wife, Cheryl, reside in Dana Point,
Calif. Having had the privilege to help raise two active boys, Dr.
Bob has grown fond of the "parenting" side of pediatrics.
He especially enjoys talking to parents in his practice about the
joys, and trials, of watching their little babies and toddlers thrive
through the first several years of life. Dr. Bob is co-author of
The Updated Baby Book and The Premature Baby Book, and the chief
writer and editor for AskDrSears.com.