The last thing most parents want to think about when they’re expecting a baby is the possibility that their child becomes seriously sick. But sadly, that’s what sometimes happens.

These days, medical technology lets parents make a choice that can help save their child’s life if they develop a serious illness. This choice is deciding whether to bank the stem cells found in their baby’s umbilical cord blood.

What is cord blood banking?

Put simply, cord blood banking is the collection of a baby’s umbilical cord blood at the time of birth.

What is cord blood?

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord following birth and after the cord is cut. It is a valuable source of stem cells which are the perfect DNA match for that child.

By saving the baby’s cord blood, it gives them the chance to survive some of the most deadly diseases and conditions both in infancy and into adulthood.

How is cord blood collected?

The cord blood collection process is simple and painless for both mother and child, and happens straight after the baby is delivered. There are no adverse side-effects of cord blood collection for the mother or child. Cord blood is collected by Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs).

However, as cord blood collection happens straight after birth, this is a decision that parents need to make in advance of the birth, by registering with a cord blood bank. In New Zealand, the only cord blood bank is CordBank

What happens once the cord blood has been collected?

Once the cord blood has been collected, it is processed and stored in a secure, purpose-built long-term storage facility at -196º Celsius. Cord blood can be stored indefinitely.

What are stem cells and how do they work?

Stem cells are the building blocks of organs, tissues, blood and the immune system. Stem cells can also turn into other types of cells including heart, muscle and nerve cells.

Because these stem cells are an exact DNA match to your child’s immune system, they can be used to fight more than 80 diseases, including many kinds of cancer.

How much does cord blood banking cost?

In New Zealand, the initial cost, including the collection kits is $2,900. Parents then pay an annual storage fee which is currently $225. Interest-free payment plans are available.

The history of Cord Blood transfusions

Cord blood transplants have been saving lives since 1988 when the first cord blood transplant took place in France, to treat a child with Fanconi’s Anaemia. Since then, cord blood has been used in over 30,000 transplants to treat numerous childhood conditions, most notably in oncology, for which it is a standard treatment option used to rebuild the immune system following chemotherapy and radiation.

There is also a growing body of research that shows that a child’s own cord blood may play a role in the treatment of other conditions, such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and Type 1 diabetes.

In New Zealand, cord blood has already helped many families including children suffering from birth-related brain injuries, and stage four cancer (Neuroblastoma).

Further sources on cord blood banking

For further information on cord blood banking, please visit the following websites:

http://www.cordbank.co.nz/

http://www.parentsguidecordblood.org/

http://kidshealth.org/parent/_cancer_center/treatment/cord_blood.html#

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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