You’re likely to start hearing this question more often. As the UK wakes up to the fact that umbilical cord blood and tissue contain billions of life-giving stem cells, expectant parents have yet another decision to make. This one might be the most important of them all – what do I do with the afterbirth?
What is afterbirth?
Afterbirth consists of the placenta, umbilical cord and the amniotic sack. These are discharged from the uterus after giving birth. Sometimes referred to as placental expulsion, afterbirth is part of the third stage of labour. This occurs just moments after the baby is born.
What can you do with the placenta and umbilical cord after birth?
After giving birth, there are a few options for what parents can do with the placenta, umbilical cord and fetal tissues. In this blog we will explore how you can:
- Bin It
- Bank It
- Donate It
- Sell It
Bin the afterbirth
In the majority of births, the placenta and umbilical cord are discarded as medical waste. This is despite the fact that cord blood stem cells are already used to treat 82 diseases, including leukaemia, sickle cell disease, and severe combined immunodeficiencies. Unless the mother or father specifically request and organise cord blood storage or donation their child’s cord and placenta will be thrown away.
Bank the afterbirth
This is the only way to make sure that matching stem cells will be available for your child to use if they need them in the future. Banked cord blood and tissue stem cells can also often be used to treat siblings and other relatives. At a lower cost than car insurance, in our view, stem cell banking is the best resource parents have in protecting their family’s health.
Find out more about our cord blood banking services here.
Donate the afterbirth
Matilda Battersby in The Guardian speaks to one donor with a more altruistic approach:
“The thought of something that could potentially save a life being incinerated along with other medical waste seems wrong. It didn’t cost me anything, monetarily or otherwise, to donate, so it seemed like a simple choice. Why wouldn’t I do it?”
We’re familiar with the idea of storing cord blood and tissue stem cells for the future and assume that in both cases, the cells will be used to treat patients in need. In her article, however, Battersby looks at the situation in the US and raises some uncomfortable questions:
- If the biotechnology industry is doing so well, why are maternity resources so underfunded?
- Since the stem cells in the placenta and umbilical cord are extremely valuable, both medically and fiscally, why shouldn’t families be paid for them?
“Naturally,” Battersby writes, “there are considerable ethical ramifications, and nobody wants to start a baby farm where placentas are manufactured and women are treated like chattel. But women will and do have babies.”
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.