Expecting? Should you bank your baby's cord blood? Many parents are confronted with this dilemma.
When we first envision giving birth to a wonderful baby, the last thing on our minds is making a provision in case he ever suffers from a deadly or debilitating disease. Unpleasant though the thought may seem, many parents are giving it serious thought and making stem cell banking their first investment towards their baby's future.
Umbilical cord banking is relatively new in the field of medical science, and newer still in India. Although we do know that stem cells found in the cord blood can help cure a number of diseases, we don't really know enough to help us make an informed decision.
Banking your baby's cells doesn't come cheap, but many parents take it as a biological insurance. The question is, how much of insurance is this really?
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are master cells that act as the building blocks of our bodies, and are found in the blood in the umbilical cord. They are capable of regenerating or reproducing more than 200 types of tissues, and can thus cure a number of diseases. Although private banks claim that cord blood helps cure leukaemia and other genetic diseases (which is a fact), they don't state that your child's own cord blood cannot help him in such cases, and he will require donor cord blood. It will help in treating other diseases though.
When you bank your baby's umbilical cord blood that contains stem cells, you are paying for it to be kept for your child in the event he may require it in the future. Although these cells can be used to help cure a number of diseases, if you don't bank them it doesn't mean other treatment options will not be available to your child.
Will the cells help my child his entire life?
Cells obtained from your umbilical cord alone may not be enough to treat adults - at least, not for all diseases. So although you may be lead to believe that the cells provide insurance for the family, in reality they may only help your children while they are still young. Research in this field is definitely on in full force, and we don't know enough. It is possible that many more uses may be discovered.
Does my child require only his stem cells?
No. Your child could very well accept a stranger's stem cells obtained from a donor in a public bank, and there is a much lower chance of mismatch since these cells are very flexible and can easily adapt to another body. Stem cell research is still in its infancy and only just picking up. It is very possible that these cells will be widely available through donors a few years down the line.
Who should consider banking their child's cord blood?
If you have a child belonging to a mixed race, since finding matching stem cells could pose a problem.
If you have a present or potential need for cord blood - for example, your first child may have a disease that could be cured by cord blood of your next child. Perhaps your brother's diabetes could be cured by your baby's cord blood… But remember, if you want to save your baby’s cord blood, you need to make all the necessary arrangements beforehand itself as baby’s umbilical cords are discarded immediately after delivery.
If at all you decide to go for cord blood banking, make sure that you choose the right cord blood bank. Ensure that such bank is renowned and has got right facilities to do stem cell therapy. Its connections with hospitals and ease of access during an emergency should also be considered.
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- The Indiaparenting Team