My husband and I were at a Baby Show recently and walked past a stem cell storage bank display. We didn’t really stop to think about it in more detail as we were making our way over to the popular pram and cot displays. However, we did make a mental note to have a look into stem cells later on as we weren’t too sure what storing stem cells actually entailed or the process involved as the idea was a little foreign to us.
The following week I started to do my own research by looking up some medical articles with information on why parents choose to store their baby’s stem cells and I was very much surprised by my findings. Like many parents, I already understood the amazing properties found in the placenta and umbilical cord with many mums choosing to freeze dry and consume it for its therapeutic properties. But what I didn’t realise was that I could go one colossal step further and use the blood in my baby’s umbilical cord to treat my child in future should they become unexpectedly ill.
So why doesn’t everyone do it I asked myself? Who wouldn’t want to have this miraculous potion at hand to help their baby in future? Like myself, a lot of parents aren’t too sure what stems cells are all about, and the idea is quite vague, in addition there are myths surrounding collection, how the cord blood and tissue is stored and the financial outlay for collection at the beginning. However, my belief is that the positive benefits of these stem cells if ever required in future, are priceless.
Bearing this mind, and after my countless hours of research and reviewing the pros and cons of the three main stem cell storage companies in the UK which are Future Health, Smart Cells and Cells4Life, my husband and I have decided to go ahead and store my baby’s cord blood and tissue with Smart Cells as they have been around the longest, have the highest number of successful cord blood samples released for treatment, are friendly and approachable (they answered my million and one questions in detail) and are very organised.
In order to shed some light on why we have chosen to embark on this stem cell journey, here are the 5 main reasons why we are doing it:
1. It can treat a wide variety of Diseases
Stem cell research and treatment has come a long way, with stem cell therapy currently being used to treat more than 80 diseases such as leukemia, cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease and a wide range of other cancers, genetic and neurological conditions, and blood disorders with the numbers of treatable diseases growing as science continues to advance. Research is also currently underway for the treatment of autism with stem cell therapy. Interestingly, stem cells can be grown into blood vessels, organs or tissues to treat these illnesses.
2. Collection and Storage is quick and easy
The process involves three steps: collection, analysis and storage.
My collection kit was couriered to me (in the little black bag below) and I’ll be taking it to the hospital with me when I go into labour. An on call 24-hour phlebotomist will meet me at the hospital to collect and package the sample. Many obstetricians and midwives are trained in the collection process, however they can choose to have the phlebotomist attend instead.
Once the kit has been packed, my husband will contact Smart Cells to arrange a courier to collect it from the hospital. A complete test and analysis is carried out and a report is sent to me with my results of viable stem cells (hopefully a very high number!). The extracted stem cells are then cryogenically frozen at below -190 degrees celsius until I require them. If for some reason, it all goes pear shaped and there isn’t enough for them to harvest then I get a full refund and am no worse off.
3. It Doesn’t Harm Mum or Baby
Whether I deliver my baby naturally or by c-section, the collection process remains the same. The umbilical cord is cut and the cord blood is extracted by my medical practitioner. The entire process takes less than 10 minutes and usually goes unnoticed by mum and baby. The bonus is I can also choose to delay cord clamping for a few minutes so the baby gets all the nutrients it needs, however not for too long otherwise the blood starts to clot which will affect how many viable cells I will have remaining.
4. Peace of Mind
The stems cells are stored for 25 years and should we need them locally or internationally they are transported to me free of charge. It is also good to note that I can use part of the sample or all of it. The treating doctor will have a look at my report from Smart Cells and let me know how much they require.
5. Other Family Members can Use it as Well
The stored stem cells aren’t just reserved for your baby alone and can be used for other siblings or close family members. This is because cord blood doesn’t require perfect matching, which means you have more donor options should you require them.
There is no question that my husband and I are storing these stem cells to ensure we are giving our child the best possible start in life by having a backup plan in the unfortunate event illness strikes. We essentially want to mitigate any health complications in future if they arise. And for those interested, I will be doing a follow up review on the process and my experience after I give birth.
Kerstin // Lux Mumma