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Safety of Cord Blood Donations for Stem Cell Research

Posted Sep 16 2012 9:53am

Pregnant mothers who are aware of the benefits of stem cell research may decide to make a contribution towards this new field of study by donating some of the blood from their baby’s umbilical cord. However, in most cases the blood is drawn during an emergency case of fetal distress in which the doctor needs to conduct analysis to determine the diagnosis of existing problems. Rightfully so, many mothers are unsure about the safety of this procedure, and are concerned that it could cause pain to the child.

Even though the umbilical cord is not actually a part of the infant’s main anatomy, it is attached to the body, so one would think there is a possibility that nerves could be present, and therefore the opportunity for pain could exist. Despite this seemingly legitimate concern, it should be noted that umbilical cord blood drawings do not hurt the child in any way.

Stem Cells picture

Stem cells can be harvested from umbilical cord blood safely and without pain to the infant.

So, how do umbilical cord blood donations work, and are they painful?

Understanding the Process of Gathering Blood Samples from Umbilical Cords

If you choose to donate a blood sample voluntarily you’ll probably be given a booklet that describes the process in detail so you’ll be fully prepared. A scarier situation commonly unfolds in hospitals when mothers are told that blood will have to be drawn from their baby’s umbilical cord to determine the cause of problems (i.e. – respiratory illnesses or other diseases).

While it may be intimidating to allow this to happen, the cells that exist in the umbilical cord could provide crucial insight to finding answers that may save your child’s life.

Once the decision to draw blood has been made, a support team and phlebotomist will enter the delivery room to take two specimens of blood – venous and arterial. This blood is then stored in special tubes that contain heparin to keep it from clotting up. Alternatively, the blood can be drawn from the umbilical cord within an hour of the baby being born.

What Is the Cord Blood Used for?

If you’ve opted to make a contribution to an umbilical blood cord bank before having a baby, you’ll probably already have the full kit that you’ll take home with you. Even if the blood is being donated to a cord blood bank it will still be taken by a nurse, phlebotomist, or doctor.

After that the vial of blood is given over to the mother, and it is her duty to contact the cord blood bank and request that they collect the specimen within a reasonable amount of time in order to keep the blood in optimal condition. If the blood is being drawn in an emergency then it will be transported to the hospital lab where it will undergo analysis.

How Long Do You Have Before the Cord Blood Is No Longer Usable?

Most cord blood banks try to maintain a collection window of between 24 to 48 hours after the blood has been drawn. However, the majority recommend getting the specimen into cryogenic conditions within 22 hours. For this reason, it is important to have someone like a family member or friend who can deliver the specimen to the blood bank while the mother is still in the delivery room.

About The Author: Laura Ginn is a writer for CordBlood.org. Cord blood storage facilities are available all over the United States. Visit CordBlood.org for more information about cord blood storage .

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