Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pregnancy Conference

Last week I went to a pregnancy conference at a local hotel. Basically this was an opportunity to stock up on free stuff and listen to some lectures given by doctors from the hospital where I'm planning to give birth. The lectures were so-so and the free stuff selection wasn't stunning but still it was kind of nice to be in the presence of so many pregnant tummys. Well, a little smelly too.
I smiled at the vendor who was selling brit mila (circumcision) kits.
"Got me a girl," I told him.
"Good, good, take one of these," he said and offered me a free booklet with prayers for before & after the miraculous event.
"Thanks!" To me, this is one of those things that make me happy to live in Israel. That circumcision is assumed and that there would be such a vendor at such a conference. I also overheard a woman (who didn't even look religious) asking a formula vendor why her product was kosher but not kosher l'mahedrin, that is, super kosher.

You should have seen how the free snacks were devoured. This wasn't just a group of Jews facing free hotel food. This was a group of PREGNANT Jews facing free hotel food. I think a swarm of locusts could not have done better.
After the doctors there was a lecture about the importance of choosing a good name. Now, I loooove the name game discussions. But the speaker, who had a backround in psychology, proported to follow something called "cosomo numerology". If you have not heard of this field, you are not alone. I will summarize it for you. It is a boolshit.
It combined a bit o' gematria with a bit o' energy & chakra stuff with a whole lotta boolshit.
I did learn one interesting fact however. It is not only my in-laws who have issues with middle names. Apparantly Israelis in general are very anti middle names. They don't see the point, think it is one name too many and just a pain in the tuchus. Oh well, too bad. Cholent is gonna have one.

Later I quizzed a group of houseguests on the subject. We agreed that it was a highly cultural decision. The native-born Israelis were pretty set against while us foreign-born parents-to-be were pretty pro one if not more middle names.

Cord Blood Banking

So I'd like to open up a discussion and get your opinions on this subject. There were several vendors at the fair pushing banking of cord blood. For those of you who have not spent a minute on any pregnancy website lately, I will explain the concept. The rest of you are already familiar with the idea from the constant barrage of guilt-inducing advertisements.
At the time of birth, one can have the doctors collect blood from the umbilical cord. (I do not know if having the father chew apart the cord with his teeth makes a difference. ) The blood is then sent to a lovely lab (possibly in Switzerland) where it is frozen and stored. Cord blood is no ordinary blood. It has some pretty cool, stem-cell like properties.
The idea is that in theory, if your dear child should someday God forbid develop some sort of horrible disease requiring a very particular sort of translpant that their own cord blood could be used to save them.
My readings on the subject at sites like make me feel pretty confident that while this is a lovely idea in theory, the world is not really close to being ready to actually exploiting this resource.
Needless to say the service costs many money. It's a kind of insurance policy. The tricky point of course is that while it seems unlikely (statistically speaking) that this blood will ever come in handy, there is that nagging, guilt-inducing worry of "what if"?
I read that you could donate your cord blood where it would be used for research and or banked for others who might be able to use it. This seems to me like a win-win idea. It's free, it's a no-brainer that it might help someone. And, bonus, because it's kind of like stem cells it's a nifty little kick at a certain president who is bent on blocking medical research and, well, PROGRESS of human kind.
I called one of the cord bank companies to ask about donating and they directed me to the Israeli Magen David Adom. Alas, they told me that only two hospitals in the country (Haddassah Ein Kerem near Jeru, and Tel Hashomer in Tel Aviv) collect cord blood donations. Bummer. When I toured my hospital, I asked and was told the same thing. I asked again at the conference (in front of everyone, to raise consciousness about it) and got a very dissatisfying answer from the doctor about the donations being "problematic". Hmm. It wasn't clear why donations were "problematic" but commercial collection was not.
Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone out there (no, not you from those cord blood companies!) can give me a convincing reason why I *should* bank the blood. Also, if any of you out there have media connections, I think it would be nice to have an article about why exactly it is that so few hospitals in Israel are set up to collect donations of cord blood.
Final note: I could link to any number of cord bank companies, but I bet you that the AdSense links I have on this page will now automatically point to them. These guys are VERY aggressive advertisers.


Anonymous said...

Well it seems like a scam to me, esp because it is so difficult to donate the blood. (But this is partially because I live in the USA where everything is becoming a scam to make the wealthy more money)

On another note I am not sure if you have any control over the ads on your space but there is an anti-choice add right now “save a Jewish baby”

Zehava said...

Word. I agree. I think it's sort of like selling real estate on the moon, or freezing the dead for future resurection.

As for the ads, I'll check but I'm afraid I probably can't stop them. This morning there were Jewish Cooking links and a site for Tallesim.
One time for fun I searched sites that sell "snoods", those floppy modest head coverings favored by certain Haredi women. Amusingly, the AdSense links on those sites were to "Modest Muslim Girl Magazine" and the like.

Anonymous said...

I think that these companies are preying on new parents' insecurities. How many conditions exist, for which cord blood is going to help, and for which no other treatment currently exists?

The number of books, magazine articles, Web site, and advertisements aimed at scaring parents amazes me to no end. Yes, there are lots of products that might be nice to have, and from which your baby might benefit. But in most of these cases, someone is out to profit from your fear.

Also: Speaking as someone whose two daughters were born at Hadassah Ein Karem, I can tell you that the cord blood was indeed collected. However, my impression is that the cord blood was collected for research purposes, or for general medical purposes, not for the exclusive use of the baby from which it came.

Anonymous said...

We didn't bank chord blood, although we know people who did. These private banks aren't the way of the future - public banks for chord blood are going to be more prevalant and useful. It's actually of limited use for the baby/child who's chord blood your banking. A baby with a disease is probably not going to be helped by his own chord blood since it carries the same damage as whatever the baby has- it conceivably might help a sibling. And it just seemed to be so manipulative -- preying on a purely emotional response of parents, the "how can you not?" school, as in "how can you not do everything in your power to save your child in the event something bad happens?" But this isn't really rational given the statistics, and I was completely turned off by this kind of argument.

I guess if know that there's a high likelihood of a specific disease that runs in your family, it might make sense....but otherwise....