If you are considering saving your baby's cord blood, you probably have questions. Browse through our most frequently asked questions. If you still can't find the answers you are looking for then give us a call at 877-852-0245 or click here to submit a question.
Cord blood, or placental blood, is the blood left behind in a baby's umbilical cord after it's been cut. This blood contains many types of stem cells, including hematopoietic stem cells — which have the capacity to turn into any other kind of blood and immune system cells.
These cells exist primarily in the bone marrow and cord blood (though some may also be found in peripheral blood), and can be transplanted to treat patients with blood disorders, immunodeficiencies and other diseases. Like all your baby's cells, cord blood stem cells are genetically unique to each person and genetically similar to the stem cells of family members. Unlike bone marrow, cord blood cells can be easily collected, and they can be frozen for later use. But you can get them at only one point in life: immediately after birth.
What diseases are currently treated by cord blood stem cells?
The stem cells in cord blood are considered a standard treatment for a variety of diseases, including leukemias (cancers of the blood immune system), bone marrow cancers, lymphomas, and neuroblastoma; inherited red-blood-cell abnormalities such as sickle cell disease and other anemias; Gaucher disease, Hunter syndrome and Hurler syndrome; and inherited immune-system and immune-cell disorders. Cord blood stem cells are also being investigated as treatments for many other conditions and diseases, including diabetes, cerebral palsy, autism, Crohn’s disease and certain heart defects present at birth, although they currently are not standard treatment.
When and how is cord blood collected?
Umbilical cord blood is harvested quickly and painlessly just a few minutes after birth — after the cord has been clamped on both sides and cut (either before or after the delivery of the placenta). The blood is usually taken by drawing it from the umbilical cord with a needle and letting it collect and drain in a "gravity bag.” But cord blood can also be drawn out with a needle and syringe, which is faster.
How long can cord blood be stored before it expires?
Cord blood stem cells are known to have remained viable — and, in fact, in the same condition as the day they were frozen — after more than 20 years of storage. That's why scientists say that with proper freezing and storage methods in liquid nitrogen, it may be possible to preserve the cells for many decades or, perhaps, indefinitely.
What is the likelihood that my child will beed his or her own cord blood?
The odds that a child will need his or her own (or autologous) blood to treat a medical condition are still unclear. Most of the disorders and diseases that can be treated using cord blood stem cells don't respond when the treatment is made up of that person's own stem cells, but rather require those of a matched donor like a sibling to be effective. By contrast, the majority of emerging therapies that are still being studied and proven use a child’s own stem cells.
The likelihood that your little one will need cord blood from another donor is also variable. That's because many diseases, such as certain types of cancer, are caused by unknown factors, so it's difficult to predict the probability that a stem-cell transplant would be a successful remedy or cure for those illnesses. There is early evidence, however, that cord blood stem cell transplants from related (vs. unrelated) donors may provide better clinical outcomes for patients.
The science is still quite evolving. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there are no accurate estimates of the likelihood that children will need their own stored cord blood cells, adding that it could range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agrees, characterizing the chances as remote. ACOG recommends that physicians give balanced information to their pregnant patients, presenting both the advantages and disadvantages of public donation and private cord blood storage.
What problems can occur during cord blood collection?
Sometimes, not enough cord blood can be collected. This problem can occur if the baby is preterm or if it is decided to delay clamping of the umbilical cord. It also can happen for no apparent reason. If an emergency occurs during delivery, priority is given to caring for you and your baby over collecting cord blood.
What happens if my baby's cord blood is not viable?
There are cases where after a baby's cord blood is received at the lab, it is determined that the cord blood is not viable. Reasons can include not enough cord blood is collected, something happened during transit, etc. If this happens, we will contact you and provide you options which can include a refund.
Should I save cord blood for all my children?
Yes. Saving cord blood for each child gives your family more options because Each child has access to his or her own genetically unique cells. Your baby may use the stem cells for a number of diseases, however, not generally for inherited genetic conditions. In those cases, a matched sibling’s stem cells would be the first choice. For experimental regenerative medicine therapies that use cord blood, the child’s own stem cells are currently required. There is increased likelihood that a family member in need will have access to a related source of cord blood for treatment.
Expecting identical twins? It is still important to save cord blood for each child as it is extremely difficult to determine if twins are indeed identical. Each child’s cord blood is banked separately.
Who can use my baby's stem cells?
A baby will always be a 100% genetic match to his/her own cord blood stem cells and immediate family members may also be a match. A newborn's stem cells have up to a 75% chance of being at least a partial genetic match to a sibling. Parents are always a partial match for their baby’s newborn stem cells. The farther you move away from the immediate family, the less compatible the child’s cord blood. Blood-related aunts and uncles and grandparents may have some compatibility, but it may be insufficient for transplantations