Posted: May 15, 2009
Increasingly, physicians and researchers are studying the use of a child’s own cord blood stem cells to help repair specific tissue or organs in the body damaged by disease or injury. Referred to as regenerative medicine, this field of study has the potential to change the treatment of conditions that have no cure today.
Dr. Marra Francis, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and former Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas is a strong believer in the value of cord blood stem cells, as well as the importance of educating expectant mothers about the ability to preserve this important medical resource.
Recently Dr. Francis’ shared her perspectives with us:
What do you tell your patients about cord blood banking?
From my perspective, there are only two things you can buy for your unborn child that are lifesaving: a good car seat and cord blood banking. I educate every one of my patients on the options for preserving cord blood.
How did you first become involved with cord blood banking?
I was introduced to cord blood banking during my residency. We collected cord blood for private storage, public donation and for a study using cord blood to research the impact of toxins from the World Trade Center disaster to unborn children. During my chief year of residency, I became pregnant and knew from my experience and education of cord blood banking that I wanted to have this valuable medical resource for my child.
How do you incorporate cord blood education into your practice?
This is an important topic, so I begin cord blood education on the first visit by handing out educational materials. I check at the both 16-week visit as well as the 20-week visit during the ultrasound to see if the patient has any questions. By this time the parents, and usually the grandparents, are a very captive audience as they first see the baby. My final discussion with the patient is at the 36th week, so the decision on whether to store, donate or discard their child’s cord blood is made well before the newborn arrives.
What do you tell your patients when they ask about the cost of banking?
I believe the cost of banking should be incorporated into a baby budget established at the very beginning of pregnancy. A newborn does not know – or care – if the crib bedding matches the curtains, or if they have on a designer “onesie.” But the ability to provide your child a treatment option for a life-threatening illness or injury is absolutely priceless. I often compare the cost of banking to the cost of a flat-screen television. The price may be the same, but the value to your family is very different. All of my children have their cord blood banked, and we still use the television from my husband’s college fraternity house.
What do most patients ask about cord blood banking?
I often get asked about the likelihood of using banked cord blood stem cells. I point to the published data that suggests 1 in 200 individuals will need a stem cell transplant at some point in life. I also explain that the odds of using cord blood will increase with advancements in regenerative treatments for tissue and organ damage. I truly envision a day when patients arriving at the ER will be routinely questioned by the triage nurse, “Do you have your cord blood banked?” That answer will determine the course of treatment for the patient.