Like every parent, you hope that your baby will have a long and healthy life. But you know that there will be scraped knees, bee stings, sprained ankles, and an occasional stitch or two; sniffles and sneezes and ear infections. But if something more serious comes along, cord blood just might be the solution.

What is cord blood?

The umbilical cord connects mother and child while the baby is still in the womb. Once the baby is born, the cord will be severed. Cord blood is blood that stays in the umbilical cord after the baby is born. This blood is a rich source of the baby’s stem cells, which can be extracted from the cord and stored in a cord blood bank.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are special cells that can become any type of tissue in your baby’s body. As a baby develops inside its mother, stem cells change to become specific types of cells such as liver cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, and skin cells. The stem cells inside a baby’s umbilical cord are still capable of becoming any type of cell in the baby’s body.

What good are stem cells? 

Stem cells can be used in a variety of medical treatments. Cancers such as leukemia, blood disorders such as aplastic anemia, and immune disorders such as Krabbe syndrome have all been successfully treated with stem cells. 
Research is also underway to use stem cells in the treatment of many more medical problems, including: type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, cerebral palsy, acute spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, heart disease, and acquired hearing loss. By the time your child is ten, a wide array of medical treatments are likely to be based on the use of stem cells.

How do I bank my baby’s cord blood?

Collection of cord blood is safe, fast, and painless. Within the first 15 minutes after your baby is born, a health care provider will collect the blood from the cord. The blood will be transported immediately to the cord blood bank where it will be processed and frozen in a liquid or vapor nitrogen freezer at a temperature around -130 degrees Celsius (-202 degrees Fahrenheit). There is no definitive answer on how long cord blood can be stored, but tests indicate that it may remain viable indefinitely.

If you want to find out more about banking your baby’s cord blood, talk with your obstetrician about your options.