Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2002

Storing umbilical cord blood could help child later

June 6, 2002


If there was something you could do now that potentially could save your child's life later, would you?

It seems like an easy question, but some experts have mixed feelings about umbilical cord blood preservation.

"Saving cord blood for the stem cells is a new-wave process and it has advantages," said Isabel Schmedemann, director of the maternity/child department at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"It's an opportunity for a resource (of stem cells) other than bone marrow, but it's a gamble that you may even need it."

And the stakes are pretty high for new parents. The initial kit used to save their baby's cord blood ranges from about $300 to $1,500 and annual storage fees can be anywhere from $50 to $100.

"It's one way to (re)stimulate stem cells, but it's not the only one. And when you're talking about paying for storage for 21 years, just in case, there are still questions to be answered," Schmedemann said.

Stem cells, the building blocks of all cells, are useful in fighting disease because of their ability to regenerate a damaged immune system. When collected, the cord blood is cryo-frozen in the same way sperm is preserved.

At LMH, staff find more and more parents-to-be are interested in the procedure.

"We've had it available for 2 1/2 years. It's a primarily patient-driven process, not something we push on patients, primarily because of the financial commitment," Schmedemann said.

There are several companies across the nation that provide collection kits and the storage facilities. Experts recommend doing your research before locking into a life-long commitment with a notable price tag.

"The likelihood of needing it is probably pretty rare. People think, 'Oh, this will save my baby,' but it's really just one option (for stem cells)," Schmedemann said.

"So people should investigate it first. They shouldn't just take the first one they come to. New parents incur so many costs already."

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