Saving an umbilical cord after the birth of a child provides parents, families, and donor organizations with valuable cord blood, which is rich in stem cells. Parents considering the option of saving an umbilical cord do so for a host of reasons, most often for future medical needs related to the child. Not only can cord blood be used for the child, should it become medically necessary at some point in the future, but also for others. In fact, there are numerous reasons for saving an umbilical cord beyond just the child from whom the umbilical cord came. Other reasons include public banking for transplants, private banking for family-only use or directed donation, and research.
New parents most often consider the need for future use by the family as the biggest reason for saving an umbilical cord. If the child, a parent, or a sibling acquires a disease or medical condition in the future, the stem cells from saved cord blood may be used in treatments. Costs to the family vary, depending on circumstances at the time of birth and locally available options. Siblings with preexisting conditions for which cord blood transplanting is a treatment option may qualify for free collection and storage of a saved umbilical cord, depending on location and other factors.
Public cord banking provides another reason for saving an umbilical cord. Where available, public cord banks supply needed cord blood or stem cells for use in transplants and other medical procedures, regardless of relation to the donor. In most cases, saving an umbilical cord and donating it to a public cord bank requires no financial expense to the donor family. Once donated, the cord blood is available to the general population as needed, much the same as donated organs or donated blood.
Another reason parents may elect to save an umbilical cord is ongoing research. Research facilities accept donated umbilical cords and cord blood to use in further stem cell and cord blood research. Using donated material, researchers have the cellular material necessary for experiments, in-depth study, and treatment development. Seldom do donor families incur expenses related to donating cord blood to a research-based cord blood banking facility.
When contemplating the option of saving an umbilical cord, parents must decide prior to birth if and where to save it. Cord blood banking options provide numerous opportunities for expectant parents, but the window of opportunity is only open for a short time after the birth of a new child. The steps involved in saving an umbilical cord must begin as soon after childbirth as possible to ensure viability of cord blood and stem cells.