I suppose you can say I was on alert after seeing BBC Doctors, where a nurse pretended to have placenta in a bag for cooking, when it was in fact chicken liver for pate.
It was only a couple of days later when I saw the headline…that simply said something like “Why do we use cord banking?’
It had me beat. At first, I imagined some form of rope, or fibre, or perhaps even some airy, arty, cloyingly sweet name for something as simple as a blood sample from the doctor (what can I say). I even wondered if it was something to do with some kind of blood for a speciality dish. We Scots are used to black pudding which is made from ox blood, so although I don’t eat it, my interest was piqued.
Initially, it was a bit of a let down to find out that it’s simply storing blood from the placenta of a new born baby, within one minute of the baby being born, otherwise the blood congeals and is no good for future use.
Then I read further and discovered a whole new world of donation, that helps save lives, and I’d never heard of it.
Donations and Storage
The NHS has a cord blood storage bank. Yes it does, strangely enough. You can even register to donate on their website. It seems a fairly simple thing to do.
Private v Private Storage of Cord Blood
Knowing that there is a difference between public and private storage is very important. The NHS blood bank is public, and operates in a different way.
In the private banks, donors store the cord blood of their babies, in the hope, that if someone in their family ever becomes sick with a disease that involves stem cells, and is treatable, there’s already a store of blood that can be used, and more importantly, one that is a match.
As with any private service, fees are usually charged yearly for storage after the original bank deposit. The cord blood banking cost can run into thousands, so it’s not something to be taken lightly
Our good old NHS Cord Blood Bank, collects from public hospitals and is free. I can’t figure out just how many hospitals can use this service, but for those who are interested in donating, it would be worth calling their hotline to find out.
With a public donation, like any other blood donation, it’s given for the greater good of our fellow mankind. The blood can be used for anyone who is a match for that tissue type and is not stored just for use by the donating family. Although the donation is stored for ever more, if it has been given to someone else, then it turns out the child whose blood was donated needs it for themselves, there is no guarantee that it might still be available. There would, however, still be the possibility for a further match in the public bank.
What Can Cord Blood Be Used For?
As well as cancer of the blood, it can be useful in cases of bone marrow problems, blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia, or where an immune system is not doing it’s job, or where waste products in the body are not properly being broken down.
Do We Really Need To Bank Cord Blood?
The possibility of our children needing a stem cell infusion of blood might be rare, but are people actually going for this, given that it is written about as painless and easy to do at the point of birth?
I didn’t give birth to my boys, and I’d no idea this whole thing even existed, but I suspect that if it was available when I was giving birth, I’d be sorely tempted, just for the possible benefit to some child somewhere that might actually need some cord blood in the future.
It’s not something that is ever going to be a consideration for me, but I thought it was worth sharing on my blog, as if even one person donates cord blood as a result of me raising a little awareness, some child somewhere might survive a miserable health condition in the future.
Find out more from the NHS Cord Blood Bank.