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  • Cyrogenically Freezing for Stem Cells: Friend or Foe?

    It has been debated over some time amongst mothers, parents and health care professionals over the benefits of freezing a baby’s umbilical cord and the mother’s placenta for the stem cells. With celebrity Rochelle Humes recently releasing information that she would be turning her Placenta into pills there has been a large media response relating back to whether there are true benefits to interacting with organs such as the placenta and umbilical cord. Women such as the Kardashians and even Angelina Jolie have popularised this practice to an extent.

    My older sister recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and when he was born she froze his umbilical cord to preserve his own stem cells for anything that may happen medically in the future. When I asked her as to why she chose to do this she said it wasn’t even a choice she wasn’t going to throw something away that could potentially help her child. This train of thought, and the statistic that there are now 1 million stem cell transplants per year has led me to explore this debate further!

    Dr Morag Martindale is a GP and has medical interests and research lying in the fields of maternal and infant nutrition as well as women’s health! She has been particularly useful in helping to illuminate us here at Feed Me 2 on what exactly it means to be preserving your umbilical cord/placenta and to save stem cells.
    To preserve these stem cells you have to collect the blood that remains in your new-borns umbilical cord and placenta, and this is where the stem cells in their most valuable form are in fact stored. Stem cells develop to become blood cells that are capable of not only fighting infection but also carrying oxygen and helping with blood clotting, with the right treatments and therapies they can be utilised to fight cancers, blood disorders and immune deficiencies.

    Currently in the UK there are only 6 hospitals, aside from private clinics where this is possible. The cryogenically freezing is often quite a controversial subject not only for its expense but because some doctors for instance believe that this is quite unnecessary unless there is a specific reason. Although Doctors understand the concept of thinking ahead in case something goes wrong with ones health, neurosis is not a justifiable reason for freezing stem cells. Considering this attitude has raised some interesting questions: Should this option to freeze stem cells be available to all? How should mothers be caring from themselves if they were to be freezing the stem cells?

    The process itself of gathering these stem cells should not interfere with labour itself in any way. It is also important to note that there are circumstances in which the stem cells from umbilical/placenta blood are unviable: when a baby is born prematurely, when there are twins, when the mother has previously had a disease and if there is a complication during labour.

    The freezing of both the umbilical cord and stem cells is a very personal choice for parents. A choice not to be made without the advice of doctors but definitely one worth researching for any parents to be. Responsible decisions for a child can be made even before a child is born.

    Photo Credit: Cells4life

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