Fetal Development & Cord Blood
Fetal development is one of the most awe-inspiring processes of nature. While a child is developing in the womb, an important tool that can help a child recover from several serious illnesses also develops – umbilical cord blood, rich in stem cells.
Cord blood can be harvested at birth, and stored for future need, and many parents are making use of services that safely extract and securely store this potential life-saver. Cord blood has been used to treat more than 80 diseases, including many forms of cancer. Cord blood is also used in the treatment of metabolic disorders in young infants, such as Krabbe Disease and Sanfilippo disorder, which may otherwise be fatal. New uses for cord blood are being researched, such as treatments for autism, cerebral palsy, and diabetes, so harvesting and storing cord blood could be a critical investment in the health of your child.
Cord blood is valuable because it holds undifferentiated stem cells. These stem cells have yet to specialize as a particular type of cell. Using undifferentiated stem cells, physicians can encourage the growth or regeneration of various types of cells, including those related to the immune system.
About five percent of parents now store cord blood. Cord blood banks in the U.S. hold nearly a million units of cord blood. Learning more about fetal development and how cord blood can benefit your child’s future health is important for young parents.
In the nine months of pregnancy, a mother’s child reaches critical development milestones, including the formation of the umbilical cord, which will hold valuable cord blood after birth. Here’s a short guide to the month-by-month development of a child:
• Month 1 – By the end of the first month, a mother’s fertilized egg will have grown to about one-fourth of an inch long. The blastocyst will have an elongated tailbone and will resemble a tadpole. Eyes, lungs, a heart, and a digestive tract will be forming. An early version of the placenta is at work, delivering oxygen and nutrients.
• Month 2 – Just under an inch long, the fetus begins to develop red blood cells. Eyes, ears, and the nose appear, and the umbilical cord begins to form. This becomes the prime source of nutrients for the child, as the cord carries rich blood to the child and carries nutrient-depleted blood away. After birth, blood from the umbilical cord can be harvested and stored. Cord blood is an excellent source of primitive, undifferentiated stem cells.
• Month 3 – At this point, the child will weigh about an ounce and be less than three inches long. Stem cells will continue to differentiate to form various organs.
• Month 4 – In month four, the child will weigh about five ounces, and be between six and seven inches long. The heart is pumping at this point, and external sex organs are developed. Mothers often begin feeling the child move at this time.
• Month 5 – Now the child will weigh about a pound, and is capable of hearing and reacting to sounds outside the mother’s body. A fine hair known as lanugo and a coating called vernix cover the child’s body, protecting its skin.
• Month 6 – The child begins to grow, reaching a length of 11 to 14 inches. Lungs continue to form, the child now has eyebrows and eyelashes, and the child’s eyelids are parting.
• Month 7 – At the seven-month mark, the baby weighs about two pounds and is about 15 inches long. Taste buds are developing, and the child is putting on layers of fat in preparation for life outside the womb.
• Month 8 – Growth is accelerating. The child now weighs around five pounds. The eighth month of pregnancy sees a lot of brain development. Lungs still need a few more weeks to develop before the baby is prepared for the outside world.
• Month 9 – In the last month of pregnancy, the child’s body begins its final preparations for birth. The lungs finish forming and are functional. The child rapidly gains weight and size. The lanugo and vernix coverings are shed.
Birth and Stem Cells
Birth itself is the greatest milestone in the process, providing the big payoff for all those months of healthy eating and living by the family in preparation for the new baby.
A growing number of parents choose to harvest their baby’s umbilical cord blood to provide healthy stem cells in the event of an illness where stem cells are needed. the blood provides an excellent source of stem cells for the child, should the need arise, as these cells will be the best possible match for that child.
Stem cells harvested from cord blood are especially efficacious in treating certain illnesses because of their versatility and potency. Cord blood stem cells can rapidly convert into the type of cells needed in medical treatment and are more effective than adult stem cells.
Stem cells can be used to help reboot a patient’s immune system after chemotherapy or radiation. They are also used in the treatment of more than 80 diseases, including leukemia, myeloma, sickle cell anemia, or lymphoma. Families with a history of cancer or illnesses treated by stem cells should consider harvesting stem cells as a hedge against these illnesses. Working with a reputable harvesting and storage company will help ensure that this invaluable material is properly collected and stored.
Americord harvests umbilical cord blood and stores it in a stem cell bank, ready for use should the need arise. FDA approved, CLIA certified, and accredited by the AABB, Americord operates in all 50 states. They offer Cord Blood 2.0, a proprietary method that can harvest up to twice as many stem cells as a traditional cord blood collection. Collecting cord blood is a safe and painless process, and it does not interfere with birthing. Stem cells are collected from cord blood after the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, and the process takes just five to 10 minutes.
Hopefully, clients of Americord will never need the stem cells harvested by the company to treat a sick child. But, if they do, their choice to harvest cord blood and store it in a stem cell bank will pay off in a better chance of successful treatment and recovery for their child.