Quite early on in my pregnancy I saw a brochure for Cryosite, a company that stores cord blood (rich in stem cells) which is taken from the baby's umbilical cord at the birth. With the one in thirty risk my baby would have of developing type one diabetes, the advances in stem cell research, and the fact that I thought my baby's own stem cells would at least not be rejected by her body should she ever need them, I decided that getting his/her cord blood stored was probably not a bad idea...
But it was expensive. $2000 straight up (or paid fairly quickly using various plans). Then $150 per year after that. We were tight financially and I wasn't sure if it was more hype than reality. I read all the company's material but it wasn't until right at the end of my pregnancy that I got around discussing it with my health practitioners.
My endo was impartial. When I discussed it with him he focussed more on the fact that I was worried about my baby going on to develop type one than the pros and cons of stem cell storage. He reassured me that there was at least twenty-nine out of thirty chance that my baby would never develop type one and I shouldn't be concerned with it anyway.
When I mentioned it to my obstetrician she was fairly matter of fact about it. Had only done one other private collection (although had collected cord blood for many people who wanted to donate theirs to be used for example in stem cell transplants for people with leukaemia). But was more than happy to collect my baby's cord blood, in fact she urged me to get onto it straight away and was incredibly efficient in signing the paperwork and getting things organised at her end.
My other dilemma was in deciding whether I wanted the blood kept if the amount collected was less than 60ml. this was something the registration forms asked you to nominate. Apparently that isn't really enough to do much with at present but the company says you never know what will be possible in the future. Hmmm. At that point I would have done anything for my darling baby to be. But my partner thought it would probably be a waste of money. So did my obstetrician, although she hastened to add, "but then I don't have diabetes". She also said, "I normally get quite a lot". (of cord blood that is...)
So we ticked no, not to save it if the amount was less than 60ml and I kept my fingers crossed. We opted for the pay in four lots of $500 over two years then the $150 per year after that. We were able to pay to have it kept for the next 18 years after which time our baby (!) could decide what to do with it.
In Australia, cord blood can only be used by the person whose blood it is, which is exactly what we wanted it for. It never occured to me that it could be used, for example, on myself, should I need it and it be useful in the future. But I suppose should my baby want me to have it after she is 18 and I needed it, she/he could give it to me. Bizarre. So many mind-bending things to think about.
One other thing that didn't really occur to me at the time, but that I think of now and am a bit unsettled by it, is that I could have donated that cord blood so that it could have been used (already possibly) to help and possibly save the life of someone else. It was unknown as to whether my baby's cord blood would ever be used and yet I had decided to have it stored privately rather than have it donated.
I guess ideally, many people would donate their baby's cord blood so that there would be enough for all people who needed it when they needed it. Hmmm... so much to think about. For a discussion of why to donate rather than save privately, it would be perhaps worth contacting the public cord blood banks or even the Leukaemia Foundation.
As things turn out, a friend of our family has just been diagnosed with Lymphoma. The idea that a stem cell transplant could save her life but she might not be able to find a suitable donor makes it much more personal. We were happy with our decision to store the cord blood stem cells, excited about science, but would we do it if we had bub number 2? Since we have done it for our first child, it would be hard not to do it for a second. But this time the dilemma would weigh a bit more heavily.
Cord blood stem cells links
A paediatrician describes his own decision to go with cord blood stem cell banking:
"Banking your baby's cord blood..." Robert Sears, MD
An article from the Times, April 2007
Diabetics cured in stem-cell treatment advance
Info on cord blood stem cells from JDRF, the Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation. Includes links to public and private cord blood banks.
Cord Blood and Type One Diabetees