Cord Blood Banking: Why Parents Should Consider It
Cord Blood Banking
With the advent of stem cell research and its use in treating diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, immune disorders, spinal cord injuries, and heart-related problems, some parents are considering cord blood banking following the birth of a child. This process involves collection and storage of stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord blood—tissues that would otherwise be discarded. The cells are harvested, frozen and stored for later use.
Although some people disagree with the ethics of stem cell research (mainly because they fear there will be those who have babies just to harvest stem cells), think of it as health insurance for your child and family. God forbid, if something terrible should happen—like a spinal cord injury, cancer or leukemia—you would be prepared. Your child's physician could treat your child with the master cells from which his body was formed.
Of course, since stem cells are the property of the family, they can be used for other family members as well. Although the mother and siblings may use the stem cells from a child or sibling of the same birth family, the father is not always a perfect match.
Although cord blood collection sounds like it might involve long needles and excruciating pain, it does not hurt the newborn. In addition, the process is quick.
Since cord blood banking is a fairly new procedure, most health insurance companies don't pay for it. The procedure costs about $2000, plus a yearly storage fee which runs another $100. It's a wise investment in the future, especially when you think about the peace of mind it could provide. Still, many families are financially strapped after a baby's birth and don't have money for extras. Knowing this, many cord blood registry companies offer discounts and payment plans.
There are reasons why certain parents might consider cord blood banking paramount. Here are just a few. If you know that a certain disease runs in your family, for example, leukemia, you are giving yourself and your family a resource with which to face this condition head-on. Also, if you or your husband are of mixed race descent or your children are biracial or multiracial, it is tough to find a perfect donor match.
At least one cord blood registry company representative I interviewed while writing this article believes that, one day, insurance companies will cover this procedure. The reason: it will improve their bottom line. Using cord blood to treat an immune disorder is much less expensive than using bone marrow which is difficult to extract. In fact, the use of cord blood take removes the donor from the equation entirely.
Overall, cord blood banking makes good sense. As the wife of a man who suffers constant pain from a spinal cord injury that happened over thirty years ago, I can imagine how miraculous it would be to save a loved one with a stem cell transplant or help him heal from an injury that was once thought irreversible. Of course, we must always remember to temper the use of new technology with ethics and humanity.
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