What happens in theater when you do Stem Cell Storage
This post is sponsored by Salveo – Stem cell storage.
4 months ago, I did the stem cell storage procedure in theater during my emergency C-Section. This procedure was very important for my husband and I because it was the last opportunity that we had to store our baby’s stem cells.
You can read more about why we chose to do it here.
To be honest, I was really scared that nothing would go as planned. After all – I went into labor and started having contractions a day before my scheduled C-Section date – so everything was extremely rushed and a little dramatic.
I didn’t even think that Christiene (Quality manager at the Cryo-Save laboratory where the umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cells are processed and stored for Salveo) would make it on time to get everything ready for the procedure, partly because she lived a distance away from the hospital.
To add to the drama, my husband ended up forgetting my stem cell storage kit in the car so he had to run down quickly to retrieve it – minutes before we went into the theater!
It was a crazy day! Everyone felt like they were running the amazing race.
I did not know what to expect with regards to the stem cell storage procedure… I admit, I was nervous at first but the nurse kept on reassuring me that everything was going as planned.
Many people assume that the stem cell storage procedure is painful for both mom and baby but it isn’t. Everything happens so fast that you don’t even realize when it is over – perhaps because you are too busy bonding with your baby!
There are 2 different procedures that happen in theater – mainly to ensure that the doctor and nurse try their best to get enough blood for storage.
The options are to collect in-utero, ex-utero, or to combine both methods for in+ex utero collection of umbilical cord blood.
Your doctor only has one chance to get this right!
What happens in theater when you do Stem Cell Storage:
In-utero: extraction occurs immediately after the baby separation and before the expulsion of the placenta. This extraction mode requires about 10 minutes and is faster because uterine contractions allow cord blood to flow more easily.
Ex-utero: the extraction takes place after the expulsion of the placenta. In these cases, the extraction is carried out elsewhere and takes about 25 minutes to complete.
How the ex-utero collection is done:
- The placenta is elevated and the collection bag is lowered to enable gravity to drain the blood into the collection bag.
- When cord blood collection slows or stops, the nurse will “milk” the cord upward (toward the placenta), for approximately 6 to 10 inches, re-clamp the cord, clean, then re-stick allowing the cord blood to drain into the collection bag. This can be done 2 or 3 times and results in an increased collection volume.
- The cord blood is kept at room temperature to ensure viability. Refrigeration will damage the cells.
- WATCH: cord blood collection ex-utero video – https://youtu.be/Mwm6gvubLrY
My gynae did the in-utero procedure and Christiene did the ex-utero procedure after the extraction of the placenta.
It is important that your doctor fully supports your decision for stem cell storage because you will be relying on him/her to collect enough blood so that the procedure can be successful. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned – even though your doctor tries his best.
They don’t get enough of the blood that is needed… which is exactly what happened in my case.
“A small volume of blood was collected from your baby’s umbilical cord. This has resulted in a low number of stem cells in the sample that has been stored. The number of stem cells in the collection is related to the amount of blood collected. There needs to be an adequate number of stem cells in the collection to enable a successful transplant (should the need arise).”
17ml of umbilical cord blood was submitted but we needed 20ml… In a case like this, Salveo would ask you if you would want to continue with the storage or not.
Even though it wasn’t enough, we decided to store it anyway. There are already technologies available to expand stem cell populations, which means that although we don’t have the optimum number of cells today, what we have could be expanded to adequate volumes in future.
Umbilical cord blood contains potentially lifesaving hematopoietic (blood) stem cells. When used in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, the umbilical cord blood offers several distinct advantages over bone marrow or peripheral stem cells.
It is also important for the doctor to collect high-quality cord blood units (CBU) because the Total Nucleated Cell Counts (TNC) and CD34+ cell dose of a CBU correlates with transplant outcomes.
I was a bit shattered when we got the results back because I felt as if enough was done in the theater to make sure that we collected the amount that we needed. I later decided to stop thinking so much and instead pray that I will never need this in the future.
Stem cells storage is a lot like an insurance policy. You know that it is the right thing to do but you also pray that you would never have to use it.
I don’t have any regrets but I do have lots of advice for moms that are interested in storing their baby’s stem cells.