When the majority of expecting women hear something about cord blood, it is most often presented as an option for storing the baby’s cord blood. Storing your baby’s cord blood is like purchasing a type of insurance. The stem cells stored in the cord blood, can be leverage in the years to come if there is a medical issue impacting the health of the baby.
Unfortunately, many of the sales pitches for storing the baby’s cord blood create fears and pressures that lead some people to store when they have little reason to do so. Most people do not need to store, but it is important for them to learn about the reasons that people do choose to store.
What Do Stem Cells From Cord Blood Treat
Although most people would argue that stem cells don’t cure disease and only treat the conditions, there is evidence from some people that stem cell treatment saved their lives. If you visit the Cord Blood website, you can hear the story of Mildred Bethea. As you listen to her story and understand the outcome following the stem cell treatment she received, you might argue that stem cells save lives.
It is easy to at least conclude that stem cell treatment can change lives for the better. What can stem cells treat? There first think expecting mothers need to know is that there are two types of stem cells that are connected to the birth of her baby. The first is commonly referred to as HSCs, hematopoietic stem cells, which are found the in the residual blood remaining in the baby’s cord blood.
MSCs, mesenchymal stem cells, are found in the cord tissue. Historically, stem cells from the cord blood were the focus on what was stored. HSCs have a successful history of treating a number of diseases and conditions. Some of the more common include blood related cancers like Hodgkin’s Leukemia and blood disorders like sickle-cell anemia.
Other common diseases and conditions treated by HSCs include metabolic disorders like Tay Sachs Disease, Immunodeficiencies, and bone marrow failure syndromes. MSCs are used to treat other types of conditions not associated with the blood system.
MSCs are frequently used to treat degenerative changes in joints as well as damage to musculoskeletal tissues. This tends to be more commonly seen as treatment options for those aging and experiencing degeneration in knees, shoulders, and other joints. More medically oriented treatments include cardiovascular diseases and endocrine & nervous system diseases.
Who Should Store and Why
Most expecting mothers are presented with information about cord blood storage during one of the prenatal visits with her ObGyn. However, it is important for expecting women to take a look at their family medical histories. Many conditions and diseases tend to have a pattern within family histories. Although this is not always the case, it serves as a starting point for considering whether to store the baby’s cord blood or not.
If you have any type of medical history connected with one of the conditions treated by stem cells from cord blood, then choosing to store your baby’s cord blood makes more sense. It is like an insurance policy. You hope you won’t need it, but it is there if you do. The reason you would store is because stem cell treatments are more successful when there is a match.
For example, if your baby develops one of the blood cancers or blood disorders and the stem cells from his cord blood were stored, those can be used to treat the disease or condition with a greater probability of success.
Only about 5% of the population chooses to store their baby’s cord blood and less than that need to. Most people who choose to store tend to be more affluent versus driven by a medical history need. Making the decision to store your baby’s cord blood should be driven by a medical history that warrants it versus driven by fear about the what ifs.
However, if it provides a peace of mind, storing cord blood is a personal choice and it is yours to make. You may not have the medical history recommending that you store it, but a peace of mind is always a good reason to make the choice as well. Your mental health matters and is also beneficial for you baby as you approach your pending birth.
Not Storing, So, Now What?
As noted above, only 5% of the population chooses to store their baby’s cord blood. The majority of the remaining 95% of residual cord blood and cord tissue gets discarded as medical waste. That’s the point. It gets discarded as waste, and that is a tragedy.
Donating cord blood is an option available to every expecting mother who chooses not to store her baby’s stem cells for potential future use. This is a free and painless choice that has the potential to save lives and make a difference for someone else in need.
Even though there is a greater probability of success with a treatment using stem cells from a familial match, there are general matches with the global community that still makes a difference in another person’s life. Successful matches tend to be associated with matched ethnicities.
Sadly, this tends to benefit the Caucasian community the most because most donations occur from other Caucasian individuals. As in the case above with Mildred, she went unmatched for so long and it was only on her last attempts did she find a match that would change her life.
African American, Asians, and Hispanics are all underrepresented in the national database of store stem cells. The BeTheMatch database has a disparate need for all ethnicities to make the choice to donate their baby’s cord blood and cord tissue and make it available to the public. The choice is easy, donate it and save lives or have it discarded as medical waste.
Once you choose to donate it, the process is free and easy. You have to complete a medical questionnaire to informs the lab how your stem cells may best be used. There are circumstances that would prevent the stem cells from going into the BeTheMatch database, however they could still be used for research which may also have a dramatic outcome that leads to future lives changed.
If you are pregnant and choosing not to store your baby’s cord blood, will you please consider donating it to help others. Your gift may save a life just like Mildred’s and you might get to hear their testimony of how you let them thrive with new life.