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Cord blood banking… The why’s, the who’s and the where’s.

You’re in the middle of your pregnancy. The sickness has subsided slightly and you no longer have to keep it a secret. But with that comes a whole new world of problems that you just hadn’t accounted for. None of your clothes fit, you’re tired and you’re craving everything that you know you shouldn’t be eating.

Then there’s the advice. Oh, there’s a whole world of advice being thrown at you. Every single person you know (and some who you don’t know) has a little nugget of important advice to give you. Which usually conflicts with the advice that somebody else gave you just yesterday about the exact same thing. Eat this, don’t drink that, you have to shop here, you have to buy this, get this on your birth plan, you need to go private, you should make the most of the NHS, have a home birth. The list is endless and it swarms around in your already tired brain, helping your good friend Pregnancy Insomnia to perform its job well.

But there are some things that you do need to consider. What sort of birth you want to have, what sort of parents you want to be, names, bedrooms, car seats and cord blood banking.

What is cord blood banking? It’s a relatively simple process, where a trained healthcare professional attends your birth and takes the blood from the umbilical cord and a sample of the cord tissue. It’s then sent off to a laboratory where a team of clever scientists process them before storing them in liquid nitrogen for 25 years or more.

And the reason you’d do this is simple; there are millions of cells inside this blood and tissue called stem cells. They can be used in treatments for over 85 different diseases. These treatments are already taking place in the NHS and have been happening for almost 30 years now. But the NHS can’t always source a sample of stem cells that match your DNA. Storing your child’s stem cells at birth could literally save their life one day. You can simply call the cord blood bank, ask them to release the sample and it’ll be sent to your Physician or Consultant to use in a transplant. The best thing is that this is a perfect match to the DNA of your child, meaning that their body won’t reject the treatment. Plus, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that their siblings could use it and Mum and Dad have a chance, too. Like insurance, this is something nobody wants to have to use. But like insurance, it’s a fantastic safety net to have.

All seem a bit sci-fi to you? It did to me, too. I hadn’t realised that these treatments are already happening, but they are! The technology is already in place to use these stem cells if you need them. And there are over 300 clinical trials happening at the moment into new treatments and therapies, so a sample stored now could be used for any number of treatments in the future.

What illnesses can be treated using stem cells? There’s a huge list, which I won’t go in to now. But in short, the blood stem cells treat blood related diseases such as leukaemia, anaemia and thalassemia. The stem cells from the tissue are going to be used for regenerative therapies and will hopefully treat things like autism, brain damage and heart disease, to name a few.

So how do you choose the blood bank for you? Luckily, there are only a few in the UK to choose from and they vary greatly in size and experience. When you’re looking for a scientific organisation to take care of these treasured cells for you, you need to be looking for a few key things:

Firstly, you want a company who are experienced and heavily regulated. The Human Tissue Authority license is the bare minimum in this industry. I’d be looking for a company who go the extra mile to prove their high quality by earning an MHRA license or authorisation by the American Association of Blood Banks. Those guys are strict, so you’ll know your blood bank are able to provide a quality service if they’re regulated by them.

Secondly, you’ll want the staff of the company to be efficient and helpful, but not pushy. If they’re emailing you constantly or making claims that they can magic up a load of extra cells, they’re probably not being entirely honest with you. Find the company who listen, advise and don’t push you. Birth is a beautiful but tiring and occasionally stressful process. You don’t need to be dealing with a pushy sales person at that time. You need somebody who can do the job quietly and efficiently with minimal interference in your first few days as a family.

So what’s next? Once you’ve chosen your company and signed up with them, they should do all of the hard work for you. You will just need to let them know when you go in to labour and they’ll take it from there. You’ll also need to let your Midwife or birthing team know what you’re planning to do and make sure it’s noted on your birth plan.

What about delayed cord clamping? You should take advice from your Midwife on this. If your baby is very weak or pale, they will probably want you to allow the baby to get some blood before they cut the cord, to give baby more energy and strength. Up to 2 minutes shouldn’t affect the sample too much, but there is only a certain amount of blood in the placenta, so delaying for too much longer may affect the success of the sample. Every birth is different and opinions vary. You need to do what is right for you and your baby at the time.

If you’d like more information on cord blood banking, our dedicated Customer Care team are always on hand to answer your questions. You can reach them on 0115 967 7707 or custcare@fhbb.com

Welcome to parenthood (again, for some of you)! Enjoy the journey.