When I was pregnant with my daughter, a cousin wrote us to say that she’d banked her first son’s umbilical cord blood and was planning to do the same with her second. The bank she used offered a ‘friends and family’ rate, so she wanted to pass the information on to us.
This was the first I’d heard of cord blood banking (though I was extremely informed—if not over-informed—on most things labour, delivery, and new baby).
For those who don’t know: cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is born and is typically discarded as medical waste. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that are the building blocks of our blood and immune system.
Once the concept was on my radar, I began to notice pamphlets and posters around the hospital where my OB was located.
I remember thinking that it was really expensive (at a time when we had so many other expenses). But, to be completely honest, I think the thought of something terrible and life threatening happening to my unborn first-child was almost too much to handle. So, instead of researching it further, I pushed the whole idea of cord blood banking out of my mind.
When I got pregnant this time, I was given an info sheet from my new OB's office. One of the items on it read: “Cord Blood Programs are ‘privately arranged’ biological insurance so to speak, Pamphlets are available in the office.” Because I was a bit calmer and less neurotic this time around, I figured I could handle doing some research without freaking out. So I started to ask around to find out what other moms thought about the subject.
Surprisingly I got a huge range of responses. Everything from:
“We researched it and decided it was a small investment that could mean the world should our kids get sick,”
“With all the new research coming out about stem cells, we thought it was better to have it ‘just in case’ it may be useful”
“Part of me just saw it as something capitalizing on the vulnerability of new parents’ and their irrational fears,”
“I didn’t want to bank it for my own use but hated the thought of all those amazing stem cells going to waste. I wanted to donate it, but didn’t find out about that option until it was too late.”
It seemed like there was a diverse set of opinions across my circle of mom friends. And, this didn’t make my decision any easier. I was still thinking it might be a good idea, and had realized that the overall investment (approximately $1,000 up-front and $100 per year after that) wasn’t actually that expensive in comparison to other things on which we spend our money. So, I began looking for a neutral source where I could garner unbiased information.
I was referred to The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a not-for-profit launched as an online resource by Dr. Frances Verter in 1998. The site was created in memory of Verter’s daughter Shai who was born with a cancerous tumor in her pelvis and later required a stem cell transplant before cord blood transplants had become commonplace. (Read Frances and Shai’s story; but have Kleenex ready). When her daughter died at the age of four, Verter a former astronomy researcher with NASA, set out to position herself as a consumer advocate for parents who want to bank cord blood and access cord blood therapies.
This site was full of useful information about cord blood including: what it is, why people are banking it, what diseases it can be used to treat, and what the chances are that you’ll ever need to use the cells you’ve banked. In reading through the site, I found out that by the end of 2009 there had already been about 20,000 cord blood transplants worldwide.
Admittedly, all of this was still a bit hard to swallow when I was so busy hoping and praying that both of my kids would always remain healthy. But, I was beginning to see that the benefits of this type of medical ‘insurance,’ plus the countless future possibilities of scientific discovery not even uncovered yet, all added up to a strong justification for spending the money to establish this ‘safety net.’
When the opportunity arose with CReATe Cord Blood Bank—a Toronto-based bank founded in 2005 by Dr. Clifford Librach (of CReATe Fertility Centre fame) to learn about the banking process and have a place to bank my second child’s cord blood, the timing couldn’t have been better. As a pregnant mommy blogger, I would be able to share my experiences as I embarked on the cord blood banking journey and ask all the questions I’d always wanted to know about the process.
I couldn’t have been happier to begin my journey with CReATe. Not only did I appreciate the warmth and advice from their dedicated team, but CReATe is the only bank in Canada licensed to harvest and store Peristem cells (the stem cells that are the building blocks of all our structural tissues and are currently being investigated for tissue regeneration and repair, as well as in the management of a whole myriad of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases). I'm so looking forward to sharing my experiences with you over the next few months—until my baby girl is born.
In the meantime, if you’re pregnant and interested in cord blood banking there are a few simple steps you can follow.
1. Start researching today. Email CReATe to request an information kit or visit them for a free information session where their extremely knowledgeable team who will answer all of your questions in an honest and upfront way. (Trust me, you won’t feel like you’re being delivered a sales pitch!)
2. Consider cord blood banking as part of your birth preferences (or birth plan). To help you communicate your birthing goals with your health care provider, CReATe has partnered with bebo mia to provide expecting mothers with a free, easy to download birth preferences form that can be filled out prior to labour and includes your preferences around banking baby's stem cells.
4. Know that up until delivery, it’s not too late to decide to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood and Peristem™ stem cells with CReATe. But, it’s advised that you register early so you can have your collection kit packed in your hospital bag and ready to go.
5. Once you’ve made your decision, returning to thinking positive thoughts about your pregnancy and birthing experience. There’s no point in dwelling on fears or 'what if' scenarios. After all, your own happiness is the best gift you can give to your growing baby.