Australian model Rebecca Judd and her husband Australian Football League player Chris Judd have decided to store their newborn daughter Billie Kate’s umbilical cord blood.
The reason? They want to be prepared should there ever come a time when stem cells could help their family.
The 31-year-old mother reportedly made the decision to store the blood, as tissue from the umbilical cord contains haematopoietic stem cells (which can be used to treat immune system disorders and generate red blood cells) and mesenchymal stromal cells (which can be grown into bone and cartilage).
Chris Judd has suffered from knee problems in the past – so if either of his children suffer from the same issues, the solution may already be frozen and waiting for them.
After the birth of their first child, Oscar, born in 2011, the Judds chose to store only the cord blood – but this time Rebecca decided they should store the extra tissue.
She told the Herald Sun:
“It made a lot of sense to store both the cord tissue and blood with our new daughter … Of course, you obviously hope to never be in a position to have to use it. But ensuring we stored this important cord tissue and cord blood — when you have only one opportunity at birth — made sense.”
So what motivates a parent to look that far into the future, and think about storing umbilical cord blood and tissue – at the moment of giving birth?
While some might find the motivation a bit morbid – in the sense that you are storing the blood for the sole purpose of dealing with the possibility of leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases in the future – it’s actually quite a sensible idea.
The process is painless, and doesn’t hurt mother or child. After giving birth, an obstetrician will collect blood from the umbilical cord – which will then be transferred to cord blood bank for freezing.
Cell Care, the company which is storing the Judds’ cord blood tissue, has revealed to the Sun Herald that about two per cent of Aussie families made the decision to privately store cord blood last year.
Private cord blood banks mean that the parents have to pay a fee, and the cord is stored for exclusive use by the child (or related family members). There are also public donation banks, where parents can chooser to donate the cord blood which is then available to be used by anyone in Australia who is a suitable genetic match – much like a standard blood bank – which has the potential to save other lives.
Rebecca Judd, who chose to store Oscar’s cord blood privately, explained in a blog post fore Cell Care:
Our first child, Oscar was born on 26th July… As all you mums-to-be and new mums will know, we’re bombarded with information about all the things we need to do to ensure our newborn gets the best start in life.
One piece of information that stuck out for me though was the concept of cord blood banking – storing the blood from my baby’s umbilical cord which is rich in stem cells for use in the future.
When I did some more research, I found that although cord blood is currently used to treat conditions including leukemia, there is research underway that could see stem cells used to treat many more conditions, like cerebral palsy, type 1 diabetes and heart disease.
My husband Chris and I hope that Oscar never needs to use his stored cord blood but it gives us great peace of mind to know that it is there just in case.
Of course, not everyone can afford to consider storing their child’s cord blood — particularly at a time which is already very expensive for most families. In general, it costs about $3000 to collect and store the blood for a period of 18 years.
For some parents, this feels like a worthwhile investment, even if their child never gets sick. For others, it can be difficult to justify spending that amount of money – precisely because there’s the chance their child may never need the cord blood.
So, would you consider storing your child’s umbilical cord blood, or do you know anyone who has? Do you think the cost would be worth it? Or would you consider donating your child’s cord blood to a public bank?