Medically reviewed by
Parents will do everything they can to give their children a long and healthy life. It's comforting to feel some semblance of control over your child's long-term health, which is why deciding whether or not you should bank your umbilical cord blood and/or placenta can feel like a big one. Ahead, we explore what cord blood banking is, what it can and can't treat, and what you should know to make an informed decision.
After your baby is born, blood is left in the umbilical cord still attached to the placenta. The placenta and the umbilical cord are excellent sources of stem cells. Cord blood banking is where your health care providers collect these stem cells right after birth and cryogenically preserve them for use in the future. You have two options: you can store your cord blood with a private company like Anja Health or donate it to a public bank.
After delivery and your healthcare provider clamps the umbilical cord, the excess blood in the placenta can be collected using a needle. The blood is taken from the placenta, which is no longer attached to the baby. The process takes less than ten minutes and is non-invasive for you and the baby.
The cord blood unit is stored in liquid nitrogen in a specialized freezer at a lab until you need to use the blood.
Collecting your cord blood with Anja Health is easy. Post-birth, your healthcare provider will follow the instructions included in the stem cell collection kit you brought with you to birth. Then, the Anja Health transport team will collect the kit from the hospital and transport it to our lab for storage.
Delayed cord clamping means the umbilical cord is not clamped and cut immediately. Instead, you allow extra time for the blood in the cord and placenta to flow to the baby, allowing more nutrient-rich placental blood to flow into the baby and possibly help prevent iron deficiency. If you delay cord clamping, collecting a reasonable amount of blood is often still possible. Each birth is unique, and your medical team will work with you to decide what makes the most sense for you and your family.
Cord blood is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells, which can develop into all the cells found in a person's body. These cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, generate a range of oxygen-carrying components in the blood, including red and white blood cells.
Cord blood, tissue, and placenta stem cells have the potential to improve motor skills in children with cerebral palsy, reverse type 1 diabetes, promote protective effects on hair loss, show promise as heart failure treatment, significantly improve Chron's disease, promote CAR T-cell therapy, and treat solid tumors, inherited red cell abnormalities, inherited immune disorders, bone marrow cancers, and more.
Using a donor's stem cells risks rejection and even fatality. Being a familial or exact match mitigates the risk of rejection, so having access to one's cord blood is a good idea. Stem cells from cord blood rarely carry infectious diseases. They are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
Melanie C., from Los Angeles, California, is a mom who banked with Anja Health in 2002. She told Anja Health, "even though my daughter is now 18 and perfectly healthy, I'm an ultrasound tech and always thought that cord blood banking was fascinating. I'm so glad we did it, and I'm glad we didn't do delayed cord clamping so we could have as many cells as possible."
Cord blood from a family member (including siblings, parents, or grandparents) that is banked in a private cord blood bank can be used for another family member. Your baby's blood type does not need to match the family member's for the cord blood to be used. Instead, as long as the recipient is a qualifying HLA (human leukocyte antigen) match to the baby, the cord blood is okay to use.
With Anja Health's Stem Cell Safe, your child's cord blood is guaranteed to be safe and accessible for life. Children are exposed to numerous potential threats during their first few years of life, including viruses and bacteria that can be passed into the placenta or breast milk. Those threats can eventually lead to severe illnesses like leukemia, brain cancer, Parkinson's disease, and asthma.
Researchers expect that stem cells will be used to treat many more conditions in the future. Your baby's cord blood is a precious resource. Ninety percent of cord blood is discarded, but this is a life-saving treatment for many people. Storing your child's cord blood cells is assurance for their health in the future.