Healthy Family History: Bank your baby’s cord blood stem cells

No, nothing to note.

When I was pregnant 26 years ago before cord blood education was even required, my obstetrician asked me if there was any family history of disease or disorder I was concerned about. Of course, 26 years ago my parents were in their mid-60s, very healthy and with a normal health history. There seemed no reason for me to have any worries about the baby I was preparing for. I answered the question without hesitation: No, nothing to note.

I gave birth to two more children and the question kept coming up during my prenatal visits, and the answer remained the same. My parents were still healthy, and my great grandmother even lived until 106.

Parkinson's and macular degeneration come to light

Then, after my third child was born my family’s health history changed forever. My father who was healthy and had been active his entire life was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Suddenly, I had a family health history which completely blindsided me.  Shortly after a second disease was diagnosed, and this time it was my mother. My mother and her siblings were losing their sight at the same time to macular degeneration (now being treated successfully in a clinical – not due to stem cells associated with cord blood banking but instead with embryonic stem cells). Upon my mother receiving the diagnosis, she revealed to me that her mother had always had vision problems as well, but she did not think of it as anything but normal aging.   I also believed my family’s health history was nothing of concern, but reality set in, and I unfortunately realized hardly anyone truly has a perfect family health background.

Educating expecting mothers

As these family diagnoses were coming about, I had become involved in working with obstetricians on educating their expectant mothers about the benefits of cord blood banking.  I immersed myself in learning all I could about cord blood stem cells. I have been amazed at the progress made in the field since the first cord blood transplant in 1988.  Today, we are using cord blood and cord tissue stem cells to repair damaged tissue. 

Cord blood stem cells are currently being utilized in over 1,000 clinical trials.  My mission now is to ensure that as many parents as possible understand how unique cord blood stem cells are.   It is vitally important that expecting parents educate themselves about cord blood banking, the clinical use of cord blood stem cells in transplants and regenerative medicine and, perhaps most importantly, for those disorders it will be used for in years to come.

I still wrestle with the fact I was unable to bank my children’s cord blood or cord tissue and hope that they will not inherit the diseases that I now know are in my family history.   Every expectant family needs to looks beyond their normal health history and realize that the cost of cord blood banking is a bargain given the peace of mind that comes with knowing you may be able to treat what may lay ahead, the unknown or known!

—Marion Welch, Cord Blood Educator

Last Updated on: 10/02/2023 by Diane Paradise