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Security Concerns for Newborns and Assisted Reproduction

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Assisted reproductive technology has advanced considerably in the past few decades. Today, would-be parents have several options apart from traditional insemination. With the various methods used in assisted reproduction, maintaining privacy and security over your personal healthcare data can become a concern.

If you’re involved in assisted reproduction as a donor or recipient, or if you are a new parent considering cord blood banking, what security implications should you keep in mind?

Safety and security for new babies at hospitals

Keeping newborn infants safe from harm is an important task for hospitals and birthing centers. Attempted abduction of newborns is more common than you’d think, so hospitals have protective measures and strategies in place to ensure babies go home with the right people. If you’re someone expecting to give birth soon, check the measures in place at the facility you’re planning to deliver in.

The hospital or birthing center should have:

  • An infant security solution that includes a safety band wrapped around a baby’s ankle that can alert staff when the newborn is taken out of a certain perimeter without authorization
  • Access control systems that use key cards to only let authorized people near newborns
  • Well-trained staff that can act quickly in case of an emergency
  • Digital footprint scans that are more reliable than paper and ink footprints

Cord blood banking

Cord blood banking refers to collecting stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born, and storing those cells for future use. Stem cells are used for a variety of reasons, including to treat cancer, blood diseases, and immune system disorders. These cells are also less likely to carry infectious diseases and half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.

Saving your baby’s stem cells for future use can be beneficial to your child and your family’s future, in case of severe medical problems. Some parents also choose to donate their baby’s cord blood to public blood banks, where the stem cells are used to treat other patients.

Security concerns for cord blood banking

Generally, cord blood banking is seen as a harmless, beneficial process that can help save another patient. Unless you use a private blood bank, however, you may run into security concerns. Most pediatricians don’t recommend private cord blood banking because it’s too expensive and the blood hardly ever gets used. So, most parents end up donating to public blood banks.

Most cord blood banks keep the identities of their donors anonymous, so if someone receives your baby’s stem cells, they shouldn’t be able to identify your baby. Still, you should do your due diligence as a parent to find a reputable cord blood bank that takes privacy and security seriously.

Snowflake children

Snowflake children are the children born from donated frozen embryos left over from an in vitro fertilization process. Parents can adopt these embryos, and the children are referred to as snowflake children by many assisted reproduction organizations.

Privacy and security concerns of embryo adoption

Unlike donating cord blood, embryo adoption is an adoption process. The identities of the donor and recipient do not remain anonymous so that adoption centers can match donors with appropriate recipients. Legally, the transfer of ownership is similar to adoption, however, in some states, embryo donation isn’t as well regulated as adoption, which could give recipient parents fewer rights and responsibilities.

If you choose to do in vitro fertilization or pursue embryo adoption, you should be sure the organization you choose to facilitate the process takes security seriously. Ask them about their policies concerning the collection and use of your private data, especially since they will be gathering medical information about you.

Privacy concerns for sperm donors

Sperm donation centers and embryo adoption organizations have both been affected by the prevalence of at-home DNA testing. Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com help give people clues about who their biological parents are, allowing them to track down donors who may not have wanted to be found.

Clinics can no longer guarantee “anonymous” donations, but can only promise that they won’t give any information away. For this reason, donors should think seriously about the implications of donating. If privacy and security are important to you, then sperm or egg donation may not be a good option for you.

Protecting your privacy in assisted reproduction

Using alternative techniques to adopt children or have a baby have become common. But in today’s digital age, finding and sharing someone’s personal information is all too easy as well. Whether you want to protect your newborn child at the hospital or ensure an assisted reproduction center keeps your data safe, it’s natural to be concerned about privacy and security. Before making a decision, always consider the privacy implications of your actions.

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