Is freezing your placenta and cord blood sci-fi weird, or just common sense?

Over the past 20 years, stem cells sourced from cord blood have been used globally in over 30,000 transplants to treat over 80 conditions. 

An estimated 15,000 Australian's have privately banked their babies' cord blood - an expensive, but possibly lifesaving form of biological insurance.

Scientists claim we are just scratching the surface.

The placenta and cord blood are super rich sources of lifesaving stem cells.

Stem cells can develop into a variety of human tissue cells, so they can be thought of as 'spare parts' to repair diseased cells or organs. 

For blood cancers like leukaemia, sickle cell anaemia and immune system disorders, bone marrow transplants were once the only option. Now, stem cell treatment is providing more effective, faster-acting treatments. 

In addition to stem cells' effectiveness, the rejection rate is much lower than a bone marrow transplant and the collection process (carried out at immediately following birth) is completely painless for both mother and baby.

Research is currently underway into future applications for diabetes and cerebral palsy.  

At a glance, it seems like a no-brainer to bank the placenta and cord blood. In Australia, if you opt to freeze your placenta and cord blood with a private company, you have a supply of stem cells that are a guaranteed match for your children if ever needed. 

So why are some studies calling placenta and cord blood banking excessive and unnecessary?

First of all, blood and placenta banking comes with a hefty price tag. In Australia, you can either store the placenta and cord blood through the public or private sector. 

Although private storage allows you to access your child's own stem cells, it can cost between $3000-$6000 to store the placenta and cord blood for up to 24 years. 

Secondly, even if you're willing to pay the price there is some risk that stem cells frozen for decades may not be effective by the time they're needed. The research is still too new to be sure. 

In the UK, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggest that only families who are at high-risk of passing on genetic disorders and other diseases need to consider storing stem cells. Their advice stacks up with statistics: the chances of a child needing cord blood are one in 2,700 according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

It's worth noting that in Australia (and in most developed countries), there are also public cord blood banks. If you choose to go public, the tissue and blood banked can be accessed by the general population.

Over the last two decades, around 19,000 people have donated to the Sydney Cord Blood Bank, and 500 units have been released for lifesaving treatment. 

If your bub isn't at high risk for a genetic disease, but you'd still like to see someone benefit from these valuable stem cells, you should definitely consider donating. Donating your placenta and cord blood to a public blood bank is completely free and the extracted stem cells will increase the chances of a 'cell match' that could save a life.

If you are currently pregnant and interested in donating your placenta and cord blood, get in touch with your closest cord blood bank