The nourishment of the placenta and umbilical cord in creating your baby is an amazing thing. With scientific advancements in the field of stem cells, some families are choosing to save their baby’s umbilical cord in a process known as cord blood banking. While the uses for cord blood are evolving, parents are choosing to save the umbilical cord for potentially treating childhood diseases. If you or a loved one is considering cord blood banking, here are some considerations and information regarding the option.
What Is Cord Blood Used For?
Cord blood contains stem cells, which are cells that form blood. These cells are not yet differentiated, which means they don’t have a purpose in the body. They could become red blood cells, platelets, or white blood cells. As a result, they could potentially be used to treat many different types of blood-related disorders. Examples include leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease, aplastic anemia, and other conditions.
If a child develops a condition that affects blood cells in the body, the cord blood could potentially be used for stem cell transplants. These are used to encourage growth of healthy cells.
Where Is Cord Blood Stored?
People have several options when it comes to banking cord blood. First, there are “public” banks where people may donate anonymously. This blood is categorized and stored for potential use for research and for a child who may need it one day. However, the cord blood isn’t specifically stored for your child. If needed, you couldn’t retrieve the blood because it is anonymously stored. Think of this option as similar to donating blood to a blood bank.
The second option is private cord blood banking. This requires paying a fee to a private company that will store the cord blood for your family and only for your family. Sometimes these costs can be between $1,000 to $2,000 to initially store the blood, according to The Nemours Foundation. An additional $100 a year to continue to store the blood is also an example fee.
Who Recommends Cord Blood Banking?
For some families with a medical history of conditions that may benefit from stem cell treatment, private cord blood banking is an option that has greater potential to be beneficial to a family. Otherwise, private cord blood banking is simply an insurance policy. There is a good chance a person may never use the cord blood. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend public cord banking. This increases the pool from which a person can potentially receive a stem cell transplant.
How Is Cord Blood Collected?
Parents who choose a cord blood banking option receive a kit they must bring to the hospital. It’s important that an expectant mother tell her medical team that she wants to use cord blood collection before birth. The medical team will extract the cord blood after the baby is born. This can occur either before or after the placenta arrives, which is known as the third stage of labor.
Ultrasound technology has meant expectant parents can get a small glimpse into their baby’s appearance before the big due date arrives. You may notice when your doctor is looking at the ultrasound that they’re doing so very intently. This is because doctors are visualizing an ultrasound not only to see your baby’s movements and development, but also for several other key factors.
Each obstetrician may have different protocols as to how many ultrasounds are performed. Sometimes, a doctor will recommend an ultrasound with each visit or sometimes at least twice during a pregnancy.
A doctor will typically perform at least a first-trimester ultrasound somewhere between the 12 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. At this time, your doctor is looking at the baby for signs of nuchal translucency. This area at the back of the neck is where fluid can build up. In babies who have certain chromosome defects, such as Down’s syndrome, the nuchal area may have a significant collection of fluid buildup. However, the scan is only an estimate. If your doctor suspects your baby may have an abnormality, further testing is usually recommended.
It’s possible that your doctor could recommend an ultrasound at six to seven weeks into your pregnancy. This is often via a transvaginal ultrasound instead of putting the ultrasound wand over your belly. Your baby is not usually big enough this early in your pregnancy to be easily visualized via an abdominal ultrasound. However, your doctor may use an early ultrasound to ensure your baby has implanted into the right location in your uterus. Otherwise, the pregnancy could be an ectopic one and will not develop further.
At about 18 to 20 weeks into your pregnancy, your obstetrician will often perform a second ultrasound. This one is often significantly more involved as your doctor is checking for the valves in your baby’s heart, presence of healthy kidney development, normal facial growth, and the all-important gender of your baby, if you wish to know. Often, ultrasound is accompanied by listening to fetal heart tones to ensure your baby’s heartbeat is strong and steady.
During the third trimester, your doctor may perform another ultrasound to ensure all is well with your baby’s growth and positioning. At this time, a doctor may be looking at the amount of fluid surrounding your baby to ensure there isn’t too much (or not enough). Your doctor is also looking to see if your baby is head down or if their head is pointed toward your chest, which is known as a breach position. Because you cannot safely deliver a baby vaginally in breech position, it’s important for your doctor to know where your baby is at.
Utilizing New Ultrasound Technology
The advent of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound technology mean that expectant parents, friends, and family can see a baby in much finer detail than ever before. While some doctors have these higher-tech imaging capabilities, other people go to ultrasound facilities to see the images of their little ones. However, it’s important to remember if you do go to an ultrasound facility that the personnel there are not doctors. Therefore, it’s possible they may not see a defect or other irregularity that a doctor might.
Doctors and nurses often ask their patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being little pain and 10 being the worst pain ever – like labor pain. While this may not be reassuring to an expectant mom, there are many pain relief options during labour that can make the process significantly more comfortable for the mom-to-be. When you’re creating your birth plan for labor, it’s important to consider the possible options for pain relief.
Epidural and spinal analgesia can both make you numb from the ribcage and/or waist down, but they aren’t the same thing. Epidural anesthesia involves inserting a thin, flexible catheter through the ligaments between your spinal bones in the spinal canal. A common misconception is that the epidural is placed in your spinal cord, but this isn’t true. Instead, the catheter is placed in the area near where your spinal nerves are. When medication is delivered to the area, it can numb the nerves so you won’t feel pain. An epidural catheter can stay in for several days if your labor is prolonged.
Pros: Epidural anesthesia provides pain relief, most often for women who deliver their babies vaginally. It is possible to “dose up” an epidural should a mother require an emergent C-section if labor doesn’t progress. A mother is much more comfortable throughout the delivery experience than through natural childbirth.
Cons: Epidural anesthesia can result in side effects although the risks are relatively small, including severe headaches and infection risk. Sometimes an epidural doesn’t work. Epidural anesthesia may also prolong the second stage of labor where a mother is “pushing” her baby through the birth canal, according to Live Science.
Spinal anesthesia is similar to administering a “shot” of pain medicine into a deeper area in the spinal canal than an epidural does. The pain relief is often faster and sometimes more potent than an epidural. However, spinal anesthesia is a one-time dose. This method is most often used for C-section deliveries. However, it’s possible to offer a combined epidural that delivers immediate relief and the long-lasting effects of epidural anesthesia.
Pros: Spinal anesthesia can effectively reduce pain for mothers delivering vaginally or surgically. The effects usually last about two hours.
Cons: Like an epidural, a spinal anesthesia technique may not work. Numbing the nerves quickly also can cause a woman to experience very low blood pressure. She may need medications to treat this.
General anesthesia is similar to surgical anesthesia. It involves putting an expectant mom completely asleep during the delivery process. This may be indicated for emergency procedures or procedures where complications could occur.
Pros: Advantageous for mothers who can’t receive epidural or spinal analgesia, yet still require a C-section.
Cons: Typically used only in emergencies. Medications given could cross the placenta. Also, a new mother doesn’t get to see or hold her baby immediately after it’s born because she is waking up from anesthesia.
Doctors must be careful about what medications you’re given during labor because the medicines can cross the placenta and affect your baby’s heart rate and breathing. However, there are some medications you can receive during labor to dull or diminish your pain experience. It’s unlikely they will remove all pain.
Pros: You don’t have to have an invasive procedure to receive anesthesia. This reduces risks for potential side effects. In some cases, spinal or epidural anesthesia can also prolong the birthing process, but not usually to a great extent.
Cons: The small doses of medications aren’t usually enough for total pain control. They also have their own side effects, such as nausea, itching, dizziness, and drowsiness. Medications can also potentially affect your baby.
At its most basic form, prenatal testing is any kind of test you get while you’re pregnant (thankfully, not the multiple choice kind). This could include ultrasounds, taking your blood pressure, or testing your urine. However, there are other prenatal testing types available throughout your pregnancy that can confirm your baby’s gender or test for abnormalities in your baby’s growth and development.
An ultrasound test can be one of the most exciting tests you’ll do while pregnant. Another name for it is a sonogram. That’s because an ultrasound allows you to see your baby, and allows your obstetrician to track your baby’s growth and development. The technology uses sound waves to re-create an image of your baby on a computer screen. Some doctors perform this test twice: in your first trimester and around 20 weeks of pregnancy. Others provide the test more frequently to monitor your baby’s growth and levels of amniotic fluid.
In your second trimester, somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks’ gestation, your obstetrician will have you complete a glucose screening test. Most commonly, you’ll drink a glucose-containing drink (like a Sprite, but with more sugar), and test your blood to see how well your body processes the sugar. The test is to determine if you could have gestational diabetes, a condition that affects your blood sugar in pregnancy.
Your doctor will draw a sample of your blood for testing for certain conditions that could affect you and your baby. Examples include HIV, anemia, hepatitis B, and your blood type. Your blood type is especially relevant if you have a “negative” blood type, like B-negative and your partner has a positive blood type. This is known as Rh incompatibility and may require the administration of a special medication known as RhoGAM that can reduce the risks for adverse effects to your baby.
Not all expectant moms need (or want) genetic testing, but it is available. Some are known as screening tests that will test for potential risks for a baby to experience a condition, such as cystic fibrosis or Down’s syndrome. Other tests are diagnostic and can more definitively say if your baby has a certain medical condition. There are some instances where a doctor may recommend these tests. This includes if you are older than age 35, have had a premature baby in the past, or are a known carrier for certain genetic conditions.
An amniocentesis is a test that involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid in your uterus to test for abnormalities. This involves inserting a thin needle into your belly, so it is associated with some risks. The test is usually performed between 14 and 20 weeks into your pregnancy. Doctors don’t usually recommend amniocentesis unless you have had an abnormal blood test or ultrasound that may indicate the potential presence of an abnormal condition in your baby. An example could be if your baby has fetal anemia and may require a blood transfusion.
Is Recovery from a C-Section Longer Than Recovery from a Natural Birth?
Did you know about 30% of babies enter the world via caesarian section? These days, you can even decide beforehand whether you’d like your baby to be born naturally, via a vaginal birth, or by C-section. However, your doctor may recommend a C-section if you’ve had a complicated vaginal delivery in the past or if you have medical problems that make a vaginal delivery risky. Each form of delivery has advantages and disadvantages, including differing recovery periods. Which is right for you? Here are some things you should know to make a more informed decision.
Pros and Cons of C-section vs Natural Birth
As you know, a natural birth is when a baby comes out organically through the vaginal canal. One drawback of a natural birth is you don’t have the option of a scheduled delivery, as you do with a C-section. You can estimate your delivery time but, chances are, you won’t pick the precise date. As a result, a natural delivery leaves you with a certain degree of uncertainty. This makes preparation and planning difficult. With a C-section, the date is pre-planned, so you know when to be ready. If you’re the type that dislikes uncertainty, you may like the idea of a planned delivery via C-section rather than leaving things to chance.
On the other hand, when you undergo a C-section, you’re not an active participant in the birth of your child. You’re in the hands of your obstetrician and staff and not really aware of what’s going on. Plus, a C-section, although safe, is a surgery and all surgeries carry potential risks, including bleeding, infection, reactions to the anesthesia, and scarring. If you don’t like the idea of surgery and subscribe to the most natural way of doing things, a natural birth may suit you better.
Recovery C-Section vs Natural Birth
A major difference between a C-section and giving birth naturally is the recovery period. Because a C-section is major surgery, the recovery period will be longer than if you give birth naturally. When you give birth naturally, you typically leave the hospital after 24 to 48 hours. You also get the satisfaction of holding your baby and breastfeeding immediately after birth.
After a C-section, you generally spend 3 to 5 days in the hospital after delivery and healing at the site of the surgery may take weeks or even a few months to completely mend. Right after surgery, you’ll need pain medications and even after you return home, you’ll have limitations on your activities. For example, you won’t be able to drive for 2 weeks or exercise for at least a month.
Sometimes a C-Section is the Only Option
In some cases, your obstetrician may recommend a C-section for medical reasons. Some instances where a Caesarian section is safer is if you’re giving birth to a large baby or twins or if your baby is situated in such a way that a natural delivery would be risky. An example is when a baby is in a breech position and efforts to turn them around is unsuccessful. Your doctor may also recommend a C-section if you have certain medical problems or anatomical problems that make a natural delivery harder or riskier. If you choose an elective C-section, you’ll most likely need to get a C-section for subsequent births as well, something to keep in mind.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know the difference in recovery times as well as the other pros and cons of C-section vs natural delivery, talk the options over with your doctor.
Medscape.com. “Cesarean Delivery”
WebMD. “The Truth About C-Sections”
What Are the Benefits of a Walking Epidural?
It’s natural to want pain relief when you go into childbirth. Yet, you also like to be aware of what’s going on and be as lucid as possible with a minimum of discomfort. With traditional epidurals, you’re lucid but have little ability to move your lower body due to the impact of the numbing medication.
However, these days you have another option called a walking epidural. This type of epidural differs from the standard epidural block in several ways. First, let’s look at more traditional forms of pain control during childbirth, epidurals and spinal blocks, and then discuss walking epidurals and how they’re different.
Epidural and Spinal Blocks
Some women opt for the standard epidural, the injection of pain-relieving medication into the space that surrounds the spine. They might also choose a spinal block. In the case of a spinal block, numbing medication is injected directly into the spinal fluid. The medication is designed to block the transmission of pain signals. With both of these forms of pain control, you get immediate relief of the discomfort, yet you’re still awake and aware of what’s going on. The disadvantage is you can’t easily move your body and, due to loss of sensation, you may not be able to help push the baby out.
Is a Walking Epidural Better?
A walking epidural combines epidural and spinal pain relief using a group of medications that block the perception of pain. The medications are placed with a needle into the region just inside the epidural space, called the intrathecal area. Unlike a standard epidural, a small catheter is left in once the medicine is injected.
Another difference between a standard epidural or a walking epidural is the walking epidural uses a lower dose of medications than an epidural or spinal block. Because you’re getting a lower quantity of numbing and pain relief medication, a walking epidural doesn’t completely eliminate pain. Instead, it makes the discomfort more manageable. You feel more comfortable but are still able to participate in childbirth by pushing the baby out. You’ll also feel more in control since you can move your lower limbs.
Despite inclusion of the word “walking” in the name, you won’t get up and walk around after a walking epidural. For one, you probably won’t feel like it as a walking epidural can drop your blood pressure and make you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Secondly, your legs will still be somewhat functional but they’ll feel weak and “different.”. You probably won’t feel strong or steady enough on your feet to do any actual walking or standing. Plus, the staff at the hospital won’t let you walk for fear that you’ll fall. Your balance is not up to par after a walking epidural.
Which is Option is Best for You?
Naturally, you don’t want to experience severe pain when you give birth, even if the outcome is ultimately worth it. Fortunately, you have options, including a walking epidural. The disadvantage of traditional epidurals and spinal blocks is they can slow labor since you can’t help out. You’ll have more ability to participate in delivery if you opt for a walking epidural. Just don’t take the name literally and assume you’re going to be walking. You won’t feel like it.
American Pregnancy Association. “Epidural Anesthesia”
WebMD. “Childbirth: Epidurals – Topic Overview”