Cord blood banking: What is it?

What is cord blood banking?

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Preparing to give birth can be a daunting time. But for many parents to be, researching all of their options and being armed with the right information can be an empowering strategy to help calm any nerves. 

One option your obstetrician or midwife may discuss with you is whether or not you’d like to bank your baby’s cord blood when they are born. If you’re scratching your head and wondering what on earth this means, don’t panic! 

Cord blood banking is a very safe procedure many families use for either public donation, or to keep for another family member down the track. Having your baby’s cord blood stored could ultimately save the life of someone who really needs it — how incredible is that? 

What is cord blood?

Cord blood is the leftover blood from a baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after the cord has been cut. It is often discarded after birth as babies don’t need it but it is full of powerful hematopoietic stem cells that can help fight a whole host of diseases.  

There is only one opportunity to collect your baby’s cord blood and that’s when they’re born. The procedure is quick and harmless for mum and bub and can be performed by a midwife, obstetrician, or a trained collector from a private cord blood company. They will draw the blood from the cord, which will be tested for viruses and then frozen and stored for potential future use. 

Cord blood banking in Australia

In Australia, you can opt to bank cord blood for either public or private use. Similar to how organ donation works, you can anonymously donate cord blood to be used by a member of the public. While you won’t receive any payment, you will be helping them and their health immensely. 

Or, if you’d rather keep it to futureproof your own family members’ health, there are several regulated private cord blood banks that can support you through the process. If you do store cord blood for private use, these banks will charge a fee. 

Cord blood banking cost

The cost depends on how long the cord blood is stored, but the fee is typically $3,000 to $4,000 to have it collected and frozen for around 18 years.

Benefits of cord blood banking

As per Cell Care, “Cord blood and cord tissue are rich in powerful stem cells and can only be collected at birth for potential future use.” 

The stem cells in cord blood can be used for medical treatments in the future, like fighting leukaemia, lymphoma, and other blood disorders and autoimmune deficiencies. They can also help grow and repair body tissue as well as turn into bones, cartilage, and blood cells. In short, they’re a mighty powerful medical marvel. 

New studies are currently exploring the use of cord blood and tissue to help with cerebral palsy, autism, and type 1 diabetes.

In many cases, cord blood can help save the lives of others, including family members. Your banked cord blood is the perfect match for your child and has a high chance of being a match for siblings, too. 

How long is banked cord blood good for?

When stored correctly in optimal conditions, cord blood can be kept for up to 20 years. 

In order to prepare for this process, have a discussion with your midwife or obstetrician ahead of your labour. Let them know it’s something you want to include in your birth plan, so they can make sure the correct procedures are followed on the day. 

While no parent would ever hope they have to access the cord blood, the peace of mind and knowing it’s there and ready to use should the worst happen is beyond reassuring and makes the process worth it. 

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