Monday, January 7, 2008

Rant - kind of long, but please read...

I've been meaning to post my frustrations on this topic for several weeks & am just getting around to it, so I'll try to summarize my thoughts and give a couple of links on the topic. Most women who've had a baby have heard of banking their cord blood. And the extent that most people (that I've talked to) know about it - is that it's expensive and not likely that you'll need to use it.

I got advertisements on banking my cord blood in my shopping bag when buying maternity clothing, got 'junk mail' on the topic, and saw ads in parenting magazines. I started saving information from several different companies during my pregnancy until Mark & I could sit down and sort through the information to make the choice that would be best for us. To summarize things - we decided against private cord blood banking, but during my research I found out something can DONATE your cord blood. I was interested & so I did some research on my own on the topic. I found out a lot of great information, and really wanted to donate once the baby (Lincoln) was born.

Now, here's where I got frustrated. I found out that I was too far along in my pregnancy to start initiating the process of cord blood donation (a women should start making arrangements by week 34 of pregnancy). And there's even a cord blood bank in Salt Lake City! I was so disappointed to have such a valuable resource be thrown in garbage just because I wasn't informed in time about the option of donation. I was frustrated with myself for not knowing, but also frustrated with my physician & the child birth class we took -that we forked over $60 to inform us on the different options to be aware of surrounding childbirth. I do not understand why a two sentence pitch, or an informational pamphlet couldn't have been included by one of these resources that could at least tip off people to look into it themselves if they're interested. I sure would have looked into it sooner if I'd even have known that it was an option!

Here are a few tid-bits of info I learned in my researching cord blood donation:
  • Cord blood is one of three sources of cells used in transplant - the other two are bone marrow and peripheral blood.
  • Donation is costless, painless, risk free, doesn't change/interrupt your birthing experience, and if a large enough number blood forming cells aren't collected then they can still at least be used for research.
  • At least 70 diseases have been treated with stem cells. These include cancers (leukemias, lymphomas, myelomas), blood disorders (thalassemias, sickle cell anemia, Fanconi's anemia), immune deficiency diseases, genetic diseases and others.
  • There's no potential ethical dilemma like with embryonic stem cell usage, since the blood is collected from an otherwise disposed of umbilical cord.
  • Donation is anonymous.
  • The most common recipient of these donations are children with leukemia.
  • Cord blood does not have to match the recipient's tissue type as closely as that in a bone marrow transplant.
  • The transplanted cord blood stem cells are thought to be more forgiving of a recipient's immune cells, hence better survival rate and improved quality of life are expected in cord blood transplant recipients (less severe rejection, less frequent hospitalization).
  • You cannot donate if you have history of AIDS, hepatitis, family history of certain genetic diseases, or if you are pregnant with multiples (twins, etc).

I'm certainly not an expert on the topic, but figured that I could at least do what I can to spread what basic information that I know to other people - I wish someone had for me. Although I will admit that I read on one source that they won't take a donation from higher risk situations like an emergency c-section (like mine), so I wouldn't have ended up donating anyway I guess.

Here's a link to an article that I found at a local newspaper: had lots of good information too. Here's a link to their FAQ on cord blood:

And here's a link to the company's website that services Utah (they're nationwide & international though). Feel free to click on their 'frequent questions' link for lot of good info too:

I found out also that even if your hospital (or state) doesn't offer cord blood donation collection that there are services that can usually still take care of things if arrangements are made well enough in advance. And, lastly, if none of this is enough of a reason to donate - I read this on the Stem Cyte website & it blew my mind...

"Should you, the child, his/her biologic siblings or biologic father ever need the donated umbilical cord blood, StemCyte will provide the unit free of charge. If the donated unit has already been used for transplantation, StemCyte will attempt to provide the next most compatible unit available in it's inventory"

So, why NOT donate if you're able??!! Please pass this info on to other women you know that are pregnant or may become pregnant. (Do I sound like a medication commercial from TV or something?) Seriously though. Especially after recently finding out that our close friends' baby boy has leukemia, and not knowing what treatments he'd be needing, I felt even more passionate about passing on this information. Who knows whose loved one you could end up helping...maybe your own?

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