Cord Blood Banking 101

You've most likely heard the term, but do you know what cord blood is and what processes are required to collect and store it? We've pulled together the basics to help you get started in determining to store or not to store prior to delivery.
What is cord blood? 
It's found in your baby's umbilical cord and in the placenta after birth. It contains hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which can be saved and stored for future medical use potentially decades later. These special cells can be used to treat many serious diseases, including certain genetic diseases and some forms of cancers. 
How does cord blood banking work? 
After your baby's umbilical cord is clamped and cut, medical staff extract blood from the detached cord. This blood is placed in a storage container and transferred to a storage facility. It is kept in temperature-controlled conditions until facility staff are able to extract stem cells from the cord blood. These cells are then stored cryogenically until needed. Cord blood HSCs have been successfully stored for more than two decades. 
Cells can be stored in either a public or private bank. With private banking, you must pay an annual fee to ensure that only your family will have access to the stored cells for any future medical treatment. Public banking is essentially a donation to a stem cell registry. Any doctor or patient will be able to use those cells if needed, and researchers will have access for clinical trials. Donating to public bank is free and usually must be done at a hospital. 
Top 3 Things Expecting Moms Should Know
1. Cord blood banking won't hurt you or your baby. 
In a standard birthing procedure, the umbilical cord is clamped, cut, and discarded. The only difference with cord blood banking is that medical staff remove leftover blood from the umbilical cord before discarding it. Neither you nor your baby lose anything or feel any sensation due to the cord blood banking procedure. This procedure doesn't even happen in the same room as the birth. 
2. Cord blood banking makes a difference. 
The first successful cord blood treatment occurred in 1988. Since then, the treatment has been FDA approved to treat more than 80 different conditions. In fact, nearly half of pediatric treatments use cord blood cells. Compared to other types of stem cells, cord blood HSCs multiply more quickly, move more naturally to where they are needed most, and adapt better to the host patient's system. They are also the safest source of stem cells. 
3. Understand the prep work. 
Cord blood banking can't be a last minute decision. If you intend to bank cord blood, you'll need to do a few things beforehand. Notify the bank and obtain a collection kit at least 6 weeks in advance of your due date. Provide a medical history and a sample of your own blood, which will be screened for genetic disorders, infections, or other problems. You must give consent for cord blood banking /before/ labor begins.