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Medical Value of Storing Cord Blood is Disputed

Published: 2011-04-07
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Synopsis: Cord blood contains important stem cells and genetic information of the newborn baby. There are an estimated 185,000 babies born each year with health problems and another 5 to 7 newborns per 1,000 that suffer birth injuries.

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There are an estimated 185,000 babies born each year with health problems and another 5 to 7 newborns per 1,000 that suffer birth injuries.


Each year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) numbers show that there are more than 4 million babies born. While most of the babies born each year are healthy infants, it is estimated that approximately are born each year with health problems from genetic disorders such as spina bifida or Down syndrome; and another five to seven newborns per 1,000 experience birth injuries or birth trauma that can cause permanent damage, such as Erb's palsy or cerebral palsy.

Parents experience a significant amount of stress and anxiety in the course of pregnancy, childbirth and their kid's childhood. While the United States has a relatively low infant mortality rate, pregnancy complications, childbirth and risks throughout the child's life are numerous. From disease to accidents to genetic defects, there are many ailments that can afflict a child throughout his or her young life.

That is why many parents are increasingly asking questions about their options to protect their child from a serious genetic defect, a birth injury, or a condition or disease that may be diagnosed later in life. One particular medical advancement - storing cord blood - is growing in popularity among parents looking for added security should their child become sick later in life.

What Is Cord Blood

Cord blood contains important stem cells and genetic information of the newborn baby. It can be harvested during childbirth, regardless of whether the baby is born vaginally or by C-section. This is a painless procedure that saves the blood from the umbilical cord prior to cutting the cord. After the collection of the umbilical cord blood, it is then sent to a private storage or public donation facility to be cryogenically frozen with liquid nitrogen to preserve the cord blood.

Storing cord blood can be valuable in limited circumstances in the event the child is ever diagnosed with leukemia, cancer or other blood disorders. Private cord blood storage requires payment of a monthly fee for storing the cord blood for a particular family, while public donation adds the blood to a national bank that stores the inventory for use by an unrelated person.

According to, based on current research, cord blood cells are actually only usable by children because the number of cells needed to perform a stem cell transplant increases as the child ages.

This means that as the child ages, more stem cells would be required for a successful transplant should the child develop a blood disorder or leukemia. After the age of approximately 18 years, umbilical cord blood would no longer provide enough stem cells to be useful in the event of illness or injury.

The Usefulness of Cord Blood Storage or Donation

There are many reasons being touted by parents to collect their child's cord blood. It is important to note that these reasons are not without controversy and challenge.

The following reasons are regularly cited by parents who decide to store their child's cord blood: - The child's cord blood contains stem cells. Stem cells are the basis of significant research projects throughout the country, with more research forthcoming on the value of stem cells every year. - Cord blood can be used to combat blood disorders, leukemia and cancer because the diseases are often treated with stem cells. - Healthy stem cells can often reproduce other healthy cells to be used for bone marrow transplants. - Cord blood may provide doctors with important genetic information should the child be involved in a car accident or suffer a birth injury. - Storing cord blood privately allows it to be used by siblings, who are more likely to be a match, should they become sick down the road.

In reality, private cord blood storage, for the purposes of safekeeping important cells should a child become sick or injured, is often unnecessary. Most children are healthy and there is an extremely slim chance that a child will become afflicted with an injury or illness that could benefit from the use of cord blood. According to the 2008 study, there is a one in 5,000 chance that a stem cell transplant will be needed for a child by the time he or she reaches the age of 20.

Some people, however, consider the storage of cord blood a form of biological insurance because it ensures that they have the resource readily available should there ever be a need to use it.

Critics and Supporters of Cord Blood Banking Abound

Any time medical professionals and organizations profit from medical advancements there is going to be controversy. In this case, the for-profit, private cord blood banks are often criticized.

Critics of cord blood banking feel that the chances of needing cord blood are so slim that these blood banks are unnecessary. Many critics feel that the only storage of cord blood should be to a national donation center so that the sick are able to have more possible matches available.

Cord blood banking is also a new procedure, and many hospitals and medical professionals are unfamiliar with the process and the options available to a parent who wishes to collect and store their child's cord blood. The lack of oversight of private cord blood organizations is yet another reason that critics are leery of this type of storage.

For supporters, as well as people who have benefited from the advancements in stem cell research, cord blood donation or private storage is a life-saver. Numbers are not available as to the frequency that stored cord blood is used to save a child's life, but the use of cord blood is highly effective in combating debilitating diseases, such as cancer, blood disorders and leukemia.

Additionally, new studies regarding the use of cord blood in medical treatments are being completed every year. Positive results in treating traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy and other genetic diseases or birth injuries have only recently come to light.

The bottom line is that the future of cord blood storage is unknown, just as it is unknown what new medical treatments will include the use of cord blood cells. The storage of cord blood is a highly personal decision that will continue to depend on a variety of factors. Parents should carefully consider their options before deciding to store or donate cord blood.

The Birth Injury Team , sponsored by the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, law firm of Silvers, Langsam and Weitzman, P.C., works on behalf of victims of birth injuries throughout the United States. For more information after a birth injury, contact the Birth Injury Team at 877-419-0945.

Whether you want to learn more about your child's birth injury, or are looking for a medical malpractice attorney, The Birth Injury Team sponsored by MyPhillyLawyer want to help. Our Philadelphia birth injury attorneys understand the emotional struggles you face as a parent coping with a child with special needs. We provide the information you need to move forward. Contact us for a free consultation at our toll-free number 877-419-0945. Website:

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