A birth plan is a useful guide for midwives, nurses, doctors and your partner to help you through labour as seamlessly as possibly, on your terms. While writing your plan, you have probably thought about where and how you want to give birth, who you would like present and what pain relief to use. But have you considered cord blood banking?
What is cord blood banking?
Umbilical cord blood is vital to your baby’s health throughout pregnancy. One vein carries blood rich in oxygen, nutrients and infection-fighting antibodies to the baby. It’s also rich in stem cells.
It is recommended that most of this blood goes to your baby after the birth (delayed or optimal cord clamping), but any leftover blood taken after delayed clamping can be banked to benefit your child and family later in life.
Cord blood stem cells can repair and replace damaged cells throughout the body, and are used to treat over 85 diseases and conditions. What’s more, they are a 100% DNA match to your baby. Family cord blood banking involves collecting a small sample of this valuable umbilical cord blood, processing and storing the stem cells at a cord blood bank. The stem cells are preserved specifically for your baby and family, should you ever need them in future treatments.
Cord blood banking and your birth type
Natural birth – Collecting cord blood fits easily around a “natural” birth plan, as the process is pain-free, non-invasive and requires very minimal intervention from the phlebotomist who takes the sample. They will not interrupt your birth. In fact, you should barely notice their presence!
Caesarean birth – If you are opting for elective caesarean, cord blood collection is even more straight forward because the date and time is set. This gives the phlebotomist and courier ample notice, to ensure collection goes smoothly. However, family cord blood banks also have processes in place for emergency caesareans.
Medicated birth – Pain relief or any other forms of medication will not affect your ability to bank your baby’s cord blood.
Multiple births – It is still entirely possible to have cord blood stem cells collected with multiple births, although it’s best to discuss with your consultant how to factor this into your birth plan.
Cord blood banking and your birth location
Home birth – By working alongside your midwife, cord blood banks can easily arrange home birth cord blood collection. The cord blood can be collected by a specialist phlebotomist in a separate area of your home so as not to interrupt your birth environment.
NHS hospital or private birthing units – Family cord blood banking is widely accepted at both NHS hospitals and private units across the UK. But always check first. A cord blood bank then will arrange for a phlebotomist to complete the collection.
Delayed / optimal cord clamping
Delayed cord clamping is now widely advised as part of your birth plan. It involves waiting 1 – 3 minutes after delivery or longer, to allow nutrient-rich blood to go straight to your baby before the umbilical cord is cut.
It’s a common misconception that collecting and banking cord blood at birth deprives your baby of this valuable blood. In reality, delayed cord clamping (also known as optimal cord clamping) is completely compatible with it. As little as 15ml of blood is required to bank cord blood stem cells – a fraction of the approx. 200ml of blood in the umbilical cord and placenta.
If cord blood banking is included in your birth plan, your midwife, nurse or doctor can prepare for this during your 3rd stage of labour, and ensure that cord blood is collected after delayed cord clamping has taken place.
Want to know more?
Over 27,000 cord blood and tissue samples were stored with a family cord blood bank in 2018. This number has risen by 60% since 2014. While cord blood stem cells are currently used in 85 standard therapies, this number is set to increase as more clinical trials are approved.
It’s best to factor cord blood banking into your birth plan as early as possible, to make sure everyone involved works together seamlessly when the day arrives.
Future Health Biobank works with over 100 NHS hospitals and private birthing units across the UK to collect stem cells at birth. Get 10% off their cord blood banking packages when you quote ‘MY BABA’ by calling 0115 967 7707 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.