The Hot Topic Tuesday question of the week is “Should parents donate their baby’s cord blood?”
While reading my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, I read a post imploring all parents to donate their babies’ umbilical cord blood. Cord blood, like other blood, contains red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Unlike other blood, however, cord blood also contains hematopoietic stem cells, or cells that form blood similar to the blood-forming cells found in bone marrow. Cord blood can be used as a source of stem cells and as an alternative to bone marrow, often for patients with genetic or metabolic diseases. Scientists are also currently investigating the possibility that the stem cells in cord blood may be able to be used to replace the cells of other tissues such as nerve or heart cells.
At first glance, cord blood donation seems perfectly innocuous and safe. However, I did not and would never have donated my daughter’s cord blood. Why?
According to the National Cord Blood Program website, cord blood collection is easy and poses no medical risk to the mother or newborn baby. Not true. First, in order to donate cord blood, there must still be blood left in the umbilical cord. Instead of delaying the clamping or the cutting of the cord so that the baby receives all of his or her blood from the placenta, cord blood donation requires immediate clamping or cutting. Unfortunately, research has found that immediately clamping or cutting the umbilical cord can reduce the number of red blood cells in a newborn by up to 50%. Such a loss of red blood cells immediately after birth results in an increased risk of anemia during the first few months of life.
In addition to a loss of red blood cells, by cutting off blood flow from the umbilical cord prematurely, newborn babies also receive less oxygenated blood. A handful of recent and growing research has linked premature cord clamping to autism. Immediately cord clamping and cutting starves the newborn of oxygen and nutrient rich blood, which can causes injury and changes to the brain. More research needs to be done on the link between autism and early cord cutting. However, the message is clear: Cord blood donation, and, more specifically, the early cord clamping necessary for cord blood donation does pose a medical risk to the baby.
Not clamping or cutting the umbilical cord until the cord stops pulsing and thus stops delivering all the blood to the baby is the biological norm. Sure, donating my baby’s cord blood now might help someone else in the future. However, donating my baby’s cord blood now is also doing harm to my baby now. I was not about to deprive my daughter of the cord blood that was rightfully hers. I would not force my infant daughter to donate one of her kidneys nor would I force her to give up half of her red blood cells just to donate her cord blood.
So, in my researched opinion, no, parents should not donate their newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood. Instead, the cord should be left alone until it stops pulsing so that the newborn receives all of his or her blood from the placenta.
What do you think about cord blood donation? Share a link to your post. Please also share this post on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ after you share your link. Although not required, for some good comment karma, visit the three links in front of your posting.
Next week’s Hot Topic Tuesday subject: Should all children receive dental sealants on their teeth?
Delay cutting the cord, research suggests: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4506259&page=1#.TrxgHWrmtDY
Mercer, Judith S. 2010. Current best evidence: A review of the literature on umbilical cord clamping. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 46(6). 402-412.
OMG, you did not just cut off a third of my baby’s blood supply?!: http://erinmidwife.com/2011/05/30/omg-you-did-not-just-clamp-out-a-third-of-my-babys-blood-supply/
Tolosa, Jose N., Dong-Hyuk Park, David J. Eve, Stephen K. Klasko, Cesario V. Borlongan, & Paul R. Sanberg. 2010. Mankind’s first natural stem cell transplant. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 14(3). 488-495.
Umbilical cord clamping dangers: http://www.kencap.info/umbilical-cord-clamping-dangers/
What are the advantages of cord blood?: http://www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org/qa/what_are_advantages.html
What is cord blood?: http://www.nationalcordbloodprogram.org/qa/what_is_cordblood.html
Clamped Umbilical Cord: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Umbilicalcord.jpg