Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Potential Lifeline for My Peanut

It’s become more common for expectant moms today to consider saving their newborns cord for stem cell transplants. However, I don’t recall seeing so many advertisements or brochures when my sister was expecting 8 months ago. I think I’ve had a private cord bank representative call me 5 times in the last 2 weeks. I can’t make up my mind and that’s why I’m posting about this, to hear your thoughts on umbilical cord blood banking.

Basically, the cord or placental blood that comes from a newborn baby has all the elements of normal blood, plus a rich supply of stem cells, which are usually found in bone marrow. More and more, cord blood stem cells are increasingly replacing bone marrow in stem cell experimentation. It’s a powerful and potentially life-saving resource for treating a growing number of ailments, including cancer, leukemia, blood, and immune disorders. It has already been used for transplantation in more than 14,000 patients with over 70 life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia. Amazing!!

There are both public cord blood bank facilities (they accept donations that go into a general inventory) & private facilities (banks that store your baby’s cord for family’s own personal use).

But… yes there is always a but… Here are a few catches or downsides and reasons why I’m debating this:
• A 12 million dollar industry, the average cost for saving the baby’s cord is over $2000 to process the cord blood, plus $125 a year for storage. Ouch….In these tough economic and unstable times, it’s A LOT of money to dish out. It’s almost like a biological insurance plan or safety security box.
• 1 cord blood = one transplant. There is a low cell count available through the cord blood, which is about 10% of the cells that an adult bone marrow stem cell collection would have.
• Experts also claim that chances of using the child’s own cord blood are slim and if the child has a genetic disease, it is very likely that traces of that “sick” gene are in the cord blood.

One expert questioned, with a national health insurance plan and stem cell agenda being 2 of the primary topics from the new administration, what if insurance companies possibly considered paying for stem cell storage in the future? Yeah right, maybe in the way distant future, and I wouldn't want to wait around for that to happen.

Of course, there are many upsides to saving your babies cord, and the reason why I’m having such a difficult time making a decision.

1) If my child (the donor) did in fact need a stem cell transplant, he/she wouldn’t have to wait for a donor match.
2) Even more incredible is the fact that the cord blood from the baby can extend beyond the donor, and potentially save the life of a sibling, mom, dad and potentially that of a cousin.
3) The cord blood is rich in stem cells, and for this reason research is showing promise in treatment of brain injury, diabetes, heart failure, spinal cord injuries, stroke, among other...Not to mention that stem cell research is constantly evolving.
4) There are only 16 operating cord bank facilities in the US, so the supply is short –which means a long waiting list.
5) Oh and did I mention that the public banks have an underrepresented cord blood supply for ethnic minorities? As a Hispanic-American, that’s another concern I have as well.

What are your thoughts on this? Would love to hear from parents who have chosen to or against saving their newborn's cord.

Here is an interesting video I thought I’d share with you as well:

Some links to private banks as well, in case you’re looking into it:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Advice for Expectant Moms

It’s true that when you announce you’re pregnant, everyone has advice for you. They all mean well of course, but after reading too many books, magazines and getting tons of advice from friends and family, you start to go a little crazy.

I was just about 4 weeks pregnant when I drove myself to the emergency room thinking I had all the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. The ER doctor’s orders were exactly this, “if you continue to read too much into things, you will find you have every possible symptom, so STOP and listen to your doctor instead”. My younger sister, who gave birth to her first son Nicola 7 months ago, had the most to say – but I love her for it and I know she means well. “You cannot eat spicy foods, stay away from fish, forget the NY hotdog and your sushi cravings – don’t run, don’t exercise – if you start to spot and get menstrual cramps, that’s a BAD sign.” Yes, those were definitely the doctor’s orders in her special case, having gone through a scary and difficult first trimester, bedridden for nearly 2 months. I’m seeing the same obstetrician actually, but in my case the doctor said that I could eat pretty much everything, limit my caffeine intake to one cup a day, and do everything I want in moderation of course. The NO skiing orders where the hardest to accept, with 4 months of winter ahead of me.

I guess the best advice to new moms out there, is to listen to your doctor and what your body tells you. Every woman is different and will have different experiences throughout her pregnancy, some of which all women experience and others many women don’t. I fortunately had a pretty mild first trimester and feel pretty pumped nearing my 4th month.

I’m really enjoying being pregnant. I haven’t been this healthy in years and getting the extra special attention from my husband is something I can definitely get used to, at least for 5 more months. It’s also probably the only time in your life when you actually welcome a stranger’s stare. The stare is often accompanied by a smile, as if they are giving you their appreciation for taking on such an important job, the job of a future “office mom” in the home.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

First Blog Post

This is my first blog post, and I'm looking forward to blogging more in the weeks to come. This is our little bundle of joy at exactly 12 weeks and 3 days old. It was on this day that we heard the heartbeat for the first time, and I can honestly say we were lost for words. It was truly an emotional moment for both Gabe and I. Now we anxiously await to find out whether we prepare for the arrival of a beautiful baby boy or girl.