It is important to know that once your baby’s umbilical cord blood is collected, different companies will handle it differently. Some companies store cord blood whole, while others prefer to process the blood; separating out the red blood cells from the sample before freezing it.
Processing The Cord Blood
Most American banking companies process the blood. Blood consists of both red and white cells; and removing the red cells is purportedly done so that if and when the sample is retrieved, it will minimize a reaction to blood type incompatibilities between donors. Hence, this might be a wise choice if you anticipate that it is your baby’s sibling or other relative who may use the sample. Additionally, the cryo-preservation solvent that is added before freezing (to protect the live cells from the temperatures) apparently tends to rupture the red blood cells, so it is easier to “wash” the sample if these cells are removed beforehand. Another reason to process the blood is that it reduces the sample size down to about a fourth of its original volume, which makes it easier to store and keep at intensely low temperatures (around -196 degrees Celsius).
Whole Cord Blood
However, companies that store cord blood whole assert that because whole blood is handled less, it will be more viable when retrieved for use in the future. These laboratories point out that bone marrow transfusions are always stored whole, and that there is no need for an extra processing step. This may be the way to go if you have a healthy baby and family with no known genetic pre-dispositions to a blood or immune-related disorder. This is because it may cost less and be more viable for future regenerative medicine practices that are currently being researched.
Taking to your doctor about your family history and potential uses for the cord blood can be a great way to make an informed decision.
Review cord blood banks and find out which storage techniques are used by each bank.