Blood collected from a baby's umbilical cord, which is normally discarded at birth, is now known to contain stem cells that can provide life-saving treatment for children with leukemia and immune disorders. And expectant parents are increasingly opting to either donate this resource in the hope of helping others, or to "bank" it privately to be used if needed within their own family.
In a policy statement released in January, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came down firmly on the side of public donation, stating that a child's chances of needing her or his own cord blood range from one in 1,000 to one in 200,000. The statement encourages families to donate their newborn's cord blood to public banks if accessible in their area, and discourages private banking for later personal or family use as a general "insurance policy."
The organization does, however, recommend private cord blood banking for families that include an older child with a condition that could potentially benefit from stem cell transplantation. Parents choosing private banking should find out about the financial stability of the company they choose, and make sure that it complies with national accreditation standards.
For information on donating your baby's cord blood, contact the National Marrow Donor Program:
- Christina Elston