Your Baby Can Help Medical Research by Donating Umbilical Cord Blood
When I had my twins four-and-a half years ago, I wanted to do an umbilical cord blood donation. Unfortunately, at that time, it was not possible at the hospital where I delivered. Since then, the procedure has become widespread and I had convinced a couple of close friends to donate. In the US, this is now possible in many hospitals and information can at least be found in the ones that do not yet support the procedure.
What is umbilical cord blood donation?
During baby delivery, blood is drawn from the placenta and the umbilical cord before they are disposed of. The procedure is fast, safe and hassle-free and does not present any risk for either mom or baby. The drawn blood is tissue-typed and then preserved under very low temperatures (cryopreservation). The blood can then remain viable for many years and are kept in a special donor bank.
What is umbilical blood used for?
Umbilical cord blood can be used in many ways. They are a great source of stem cells which can be used in medical research. They possess properties similar to embryonic stem cells but they are not obtained from embryos as such so there are no ethical issues involved in their use in science. They can also be used in treating serious medical conditions, e.g. as blood marrow transplants for leukemia patients.Isn?t the knowledge that your little baby is already contributing to science exciting?
Who can donate?
Anybody can donate their baby?s umbilical cord blood though this is not recommended for babies with serious diseases and infections. Some people keep their kids? umbilical cord cryopreserved specifically for their own use in future medical procedures. This is especially recommended in people with genetic predisposition to certain diseases such as leukemia and multiple sclerosis. With his/her cryopreserved umbilical cord blood, the patient has the advantage of serving his/her own donor and has therefore less problems with rejection. For this type of blood cord self-donation, you have to pay an annual fee for the preservation and maintenance of the blood.
How do you donate?
Your doctor or obstetrician can usually give you more information about donation. There are organizations and advocacy groups such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nationalmssociety.org) and the National Marrow Donor Program (www.marrow.org) which have active donation programs. They would be more than glad to help you.