Don’t let your baby’s umbilical cord go to waste

June 20, 2011

A tricky subject this: in some parts of the world, particularly China, the placenta and umbilical cord area as valuable health resources but in the West we are rather more squeamish and the subject of stem cell research and implementation is still open to debate. However that cord could save a life, so in my usual fashion I am giving you information, and what you do with it of course is entirely up to you.

Future Health Biobank, the UK’s leading private family cord blood and cord tissue bank, is sending out a message to alert parents to the potential of their baby’s umbilical cord and don’t automatically let it go to waste. The umbilical cord blood is the richest source of the body’s stem cells, the important building blocks of life. Their job is to multiply and transform into the cells that make up our blood, bones, tissues, tendons, organs – in fact everything that makes us physically what we are. They can build from scratch but they can also restore and repair as we grow and age. These vital cells are already being used to treat thousands of people for an ever increasing list of medical conditions – currently some 85 different blood and immune system disorders. In fact the use of stem cell transplants is now standard medical practice in many countries.

Up until now, the most common source of stem cells has been bone marrow, but umbilical cord blood and tissue are much richer sources as well asbeing a much simpler and less invasive way to obtain them. After birth and the delivery of the placenta the cord is simply clamped and the blood is collected along with approximately 15cm of cord tissue if both samples are required. The whole procedure takes less than ten minutes and is completely painless.

One of the disadvantages in the use of bone marrow is the difficulty in finding the perfect match but with umbilical cord stem cells there is a 100 per cent match for the baby and a high probability of a match with siblings, parents and perhaps even grandparents. For families with a history of cancers or many other diseases the availability of stem cells can be a life saving resource and scientists are now investigating ways to use the specialised stem cells in cord tissue which can differentiate into bone, cartilage, tendon or muscle and even nerve tissue. These stem cells also appear to have immunosuppressive properties and thus may be able to combat chronic inflammation.

If you think this is something you might want to do, then if the birth is going to take place at an NHS hospital which is linked to either the UK’s public cord blood bank or the Anthony Nolan Trust, then you can ask for the umbilical cord blood to be donated. However this is not nationally available so for the majority of parents-to-be the only realistic option is to consider a private collection , particularly if they wish to save the cord tissue as well as cord blood as this is not currently collected for the public bank.

Information packs and articles available at


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...