Stem cell collection - when your baby's cord blood is removed and stored after birth - is one of those new-fangled things that can be baffling to first-time parents.
You might have been handed a pamphlet by your OBGYN, or overheard people talking about it in your antenatal class. 'Stem cell collection' is one of those buzz-word phrases that you feel you ought to know all about but, the truth is, many of us don't have the full picture. "Cord blood banking is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for expectant parents to collect and save the stem cells from their baby's umbilical cord after birth," says Mai Ibrahim, lab director and COO at CryoSave Arabia. "Cord blood is a rich source of incredibly powerful and unique stem cells, which come from the newborn's umbilical cord and can only be collected immediately after birth."
Stem cells work like a 'bio-repair kit,' helping to heal and restore tissues, and replenish other cells. They can be used to replace blood-forming cells in a person being treated for leukaemia (blood cancer) or other life-threatening diseases. "A single cell can replicate and become many cell types," adds Ibrahim. "Cryogenically freezing a newborn's stem cells preserves them while they are young and in a pure condition, so the family can access them in the future for medical therapies."
It's worth noting that the jury is still out to some extent; the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK issued a joint statement in 2011 saying, "There is not enough evidence at present to recommend routine private cord blood collection and banking unless there is a medically indicated reason." Nevertheless, they endorse the collection of stem cells for public use - a free service in the UK whereby your baby's cord blood is removed and stored in a public bank for anyone to access - and they recognise that, "stem cell transplantation is a potentially life-saving treatment option for children and adults with blood cancers."
Although it might seem new-fangled, the process of stem cell collection has been around for over 30 years, but recent advances have made the collection, and end-use of the cells much more accessible and beneficial. "It is anticipated that this advancement will continue to improve the use of stored stem cells in years to come," says Ibrahim. "Today, stem cells are used in over 50,000 transplants worldwide each year to treat over 80 diseases, including leukaemia, lymphoma and haemoglobinopathies such as thalassemia," says Ibrahim. "They are also at the heart of the exciting field of regenerative medicine, which is based on stem cells' ability to repair and replace cells that have been damaged by disease or injury. Building on this strong and successful track record, medical trials are underway around the world to apply these miracle cells to cure or treat many other diseases, from cerebral palsy, autism and diabetes to brain injury, cancer and heart disease."
If you decide you would like your baby's cord blood to be collected and stored you must inform your doctor beforehand, and also put it on your birth preferences list. The collection happens after the umbilical cord has been cut, and is painless - it's tissue that would otherwise be disposed of, says Ibrahim. It's very important the sample is then processed within a few hours. "At Cryosave the lab will process, test and cryogenically freeze the sample in Dubai Healthcare City, after which they are stored. In the event the family needs to use the cells, the lab will ship the sample to wherever you are in the world to an authorised transplant centre or hospital free of charge."
The average cost of collecting and storing stem cells in the UAE is around Dh16,500 for an initial 30 year period. See Cryosave.ae. It is also possible to register for free, public cord-blood banking in the UAE, which can then be donated for patients around the world, but this means it may have already been used if you ever have the need to access it yourself. See Dha.gov.ae.
Other alternative birth practices to consider:
Eating your placenta is called placentophagy and, while it's not a new idea, it's recently been getting a lot of attention. Advocates of human placentophagy claim that the hormones and nutrients it contains can help to ward off postpartum depression, boost iron levels, assist with lactation in the mother, reduce postnatal hair loss and increase energy.
Although you can eat your placenta in any form, 'encapsulation', wherein it is dehydrated and put into capsules that you take for the first six weeks after birth, is one of the most popular.
The limited scientific data we have regarding human placentophagy shows no evidence for it being harmful nor particularly helpful, although there is lots of anecdotal evidence supporting the practice. If you want your placenta to be preserved for use after birth you need to ensure it's included in your birth preferences list.
Read more about placenta encapsulation here
Pronounced 'doola', doulas are women trained in childbirth who offer emotional and practical support to a woman or couple before, during and after childbirth. It's a common misconception that doulas are there to support women through a vaginal birth only; the doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birth, however they choose to give birth. "Ensure that your doula is trained and certified with an official governing body," says Andrea Allen, a baby massage and yoga instructor and a doula at Thedotingdoulas.com. "Most doulas are trained by UK or US organisations and should be able to produce certificates. Also ask for a reference, and one of the most important things is chemistry - you must like and trust your doula."
You may want to chat to or meet several doulas before choosing the one you click with best.
You can contact Andrea@thedotingdoulas.com or check out Yasmin at Deltastrengthdoula.com, Elizabeth Bain at Dubaidoulas.com, Jasmine Collin at Loveparentinguae.com, or ask around on Facebook groups for recommendations.
Read a real UAE mum’s experience with a doula here
Inserting tiny needles at specific points on the body is said to help with everything from nausea to inducing labour.
"Acupuncture and acupressure are some of the safest and least invasive choices of drug-free treatments available for pregnant and labouring women," says Martine Nates of the Koster Clinic. "Both practices can help with a variety of issues, from morning sickness to pain relief during labour, assisting the baby to descend and engage in the pelvic cavity and even turning a breech baby. Acupuncture is also very beneficial for breastfeeding issues and postnatal depression."
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