The umbilical cord is the tissue that connects a growing baby and its mother during pregnancy. The cord measures about 20 inches and attaches to the placenta and a baby’s stomach, the spot that eventually heals to form the belly button. The umbilical cord is made up of a vein and two arteries. While the vein is responsible for transporting nutrients and fresh oxygen from the pregnant mother-to-be to the growing baby, the two arteries transport all the waste from the baby including carbon dioxide to the placenta.
It is the practice and duty of midwives to clamp the umbilical cord at two points soon after delivery; close to a baby’s belly and at the end of the cord. This is before the cord is cut to separate the mother from the baby.
The umbilical cord naturally contains umbilical cord blood, which is commonly referred to as cord blood. Unlike the normal blood in the bloodstream, the cord blood contains Hematopoietic stem cells. These are young and immature stem cells that form the foundation of the body’s immune system and blood. These are cells that are capable of developing to form blood, blood vessels, body tissue and any body organ.
Why should you save umbilical cord blood?
The umbilical cord blood has been subjected to several scientific laboratory tests. The ability of the cells involved to develop and become anything relating to the body has found the cells very useful in the treatment of over 80 diseases, some that are life-threatening.
The first transplant treatment with use of cord blood was performed in 1988. A number of public and private cord blood bank centers have since been established. While public cord blood banks source for, receive and store cord blood from donors both for donation to patients and research institutions, private cord blood banks cater for families in need of storing (saving) their children’s cord blood.
There are several reasons why you too need to consider saving your baby’s cord blood, which is obtained immediately you give birth.
Easy Access to Appropriate Blood Stem Cells
Saving your baby’s umbilical cord blood provides you with easy access to the most appropriate and compatible blood cells should your baby need blood transfusion later in life. The fact that what you store is your baby’s own blood makes it easy for your baby to receive treatment at the earliest opportunity. This is important because it may be a life-threatening situation that requires immediate access to compatible blood. It is important to note that 70% of patients in need of blood transfusion fail to find a member of a family with a blood compatible with theirs. You never really can tell how your baby’s health will be in the future and saving cord blood can be a life-saving move not only for the particular baby but any other sibling as well.
Successes recorded using Cord Blood Therapies
The simple fact that therapies involving the use of cord blood have proved extremely successful makes it necessary to save cord blood when you have the opportunity to do so. Although stem cells are also found in hair follicles, body muscles, body fat and in the bone marrow among other parts of the body, stem cells in cord blood are young and immature, meaning that they are the most viable and effective in any therapy involving the cells. Cord blood stem cells have successfully been used to treat over 80 diseases and health conditions including different forms of blood cancer, tumors, genetic disorders, blood disorders, immune disorders and metabolic disorders among many others.
Regenerative Stem Cells
Although stem cells are also available in other parts of the body, those in the umbilical cord blood are a different kind. Compared with the other stem cells, cord blood stem cells generate very fast. The fact that they have a high rate of engraftment simply means that they are able to multiply and develop in record time, which reduces the period it takes for a patient to heal. This is one of the major reasons why you need to save your baby’s umbilical cord blood.
Reduced Risk of GvHD
GVHD refers to Graft vs. Host Disease. This is a complication that often arises when a patient’s body attacks own body tissue after treatment involving transplant. The fact that this condition occurs when a tissue donor differs from the receiving patient makes it necessary that you save your baby’s umbilical cord blood for possible use in the future.
The fact that saving your baby’s cord blank at a private cord blood bank does not mean that you cannot donate it to a patient in need. It may turn out that your baby’s cord blood is unique, which may just be what a patient somewhere requires during an emergency. You will have played a very important role in saving someone else’s life through the simple act of saving your baby’s cord blood.
Although about 30,000 patients have benefited from treatment involving the use of stem blood cells across the world, medical treatment in the future will rely on regenerative medicine of which use of cord blood is very critical. Although saving the same has its own costs, the benefits of saving your baby’s cord blood outweigh any costs involved.