Cord blood banking is a relatively new option for pregnant women, and one that has significant health benefits for a child as well as for immediate family members. The blood from the umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, which are considered "master cells" because they serve as the building blocks of organ tissue, blood and the immune system. Like bone marrow, cord blood can be used in future medical treatments that a child or family member might need, providing a guaranteed genetic match. By collecting cord blood and saving it through a cord blood bank, a family can preserve this valuable source of stem cells.

Cord blood has been used for many years to treat as many as 80 different diseases, including leukemia, other cancers and blood disorders. More recently, research has shown that cord blood may have the potential to treat conditions like brain injury and juvenile diabetes.

Cord blood collection is a simple, safe and painless procedure to remove blood from the umbilical cord immediately after birth. If an expectant mother chooses to save blood from the umbilical cord, she should work with a cord blood bank prior to delivering her baby to secure the necessary collection supplies. She can choose to save the cord blood and bank it for her family or donate the blood for use by others. If the blood is not banked, it will be discarded. While this is an individual choice, pregnant women are strongly encouraged to consider saving cord blood because it provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve cells that could have tremendous future health benefits.

Dr. Michael Urig is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor, or call Urig's Ahwatukee Foothills office at (480) 759-9191.

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