Did you know that stem cells and cord blood can be used to treat potential illnesses in your child?
Years before we were ever ready to have children ourselves I remember my husbands brother telling us about how he had the stem cells harvested from the birth of one of his children and they were cryogenically stored. We were fascinated and chatted with him all about it as it wasn’t something either of us had previously heard of or knew anything about.
When we found out we were expecting it was a topic that came up very early on and we both wanted to look into the process in more detail before making our decision. We did a lot of research and here’s what we found out.
Who can it be used for?
The stem cells and cord blood can be used to treat potential illnesses in your child, you the parents and your own immediate family too.
There are two main types of stem cell banking, public and private.
The NHS has a public cord bank where you can donate cord blood, you will not be charged for collection or storage. Once you donate it is no longer your property so it will be donated to whoever is the best match for it. This service is only available at certain hospitals.
Private cord banks store your cord blood and cord tissue exclusively for you and/or members of your family. They charge for the collection and then there is a yearly charge for the storage.
We opted for a private company and this is our experience.
Having researched the market thoroughly there are a few main players in the field. Some advertise really well and you see the same names coming up at all the pregnancy focussed events and locations. However, I would advise you to take the time to have a consultation call with each of the companies that you are interested in and look at the full spectrum of what is on offer. If there is something that you don’t understand, for example what the difference is between what one company offers versus another - ask them to explain how/why they differ.
A really useful tool is the Human Tissue Authority. They list of all the companies offering stem cell collection and storage, these are inspected even two years and you can access those reports.
Here's how it works
We made our choice to go with Smart Cells and booked their service for cord blood and cord tissue to be collected at birth and stored, the total price for collection and processing was £2545 and then from the second year onwards there is an annual £100 storage fee. A bag with the collection kit was couriered to our home, which we kept in the hallway next to our hospital bag as we would need to take it with us on the day. It’s simple and neat and doesn’t need any special storage conditions. We were allocated a main phlebotomist and a back up phlebotomist who will be in touch with you directly to make contact. On the day that you go into labour you need to contact them and let them know when you are going to the birth centre in our case or wherever you will be having your baby.
Stem cell banking and mindful birthing
As I was practicing mindful birthing it was my husband who would be doing all the communication with them so we made sure that they had those instructions and everyone had the correct contact details, phone numbers etc.
At the Birth Centre
When we got to the birth centre I wasn’t aware of anything that went on. Behind the scenes this is what happened, my husband called the phlebotomist when we first arrived at the birth centre - they wanted to know how dilated I was but since we didn’t know, the midwives gave a rough estimate. The phlebotomist arrived and waited patiently and unobtrusively in the waiting area until our baby was born.
Delayed cord clamping
We had informed the midwives at our previous appointments and it was all marked in our notes that we would be collecting the cord blood and tissue for storage. I had an amazing experience, literally a Dream Birth, I had a water birth and my baby daughter swam out into this world without any crying! I felt really passionate about wanting delayed cord clamping and had informed everyone in advance of this - so I was super happy that we were able to leave the cord pulsing for a few minutes before it was cut. So with my placenta delivered and the cord cut, our midwife took them to the phlebotomist who used the kit that we had brought with us to extract and package up the blood and tissue. I honestly didn't see or even notice anything!
A few hours later after we had our Golden Hour together and we were all settled my husband contacted Smart Cells to arrange the courier service to collect the samples. We were staying overnight in the Birth Centre so they collected everything the following morning and whisked it away - again I was blissfully unaware of all of this going on behind the scenes. When our baby’s cord blood and tissue arrived at the lab it was tested and checked to ensure that they were viable, once confirmed we were informed and everything was placed in storage.
Our hope is that this will be a really bad investment!! In other words that nobody in our family will get seriously ill or ever need any of the items banked. So it’s like our safety net, it’s there but we hope we never ever need it.