Among the decisions facing expectant parents is one that involves cord blood banking, a procedure that takes only minutes to perform and could potentially serve as a lifesaving option later in life for their children. However, just as the cord blood banking trend has risen, so have questions about whether or not the procedure is the best choice for individual families and what parents should know before making a decision. Although there is plenty of information available, many parents believe their decision to bank cord blood is the medical equivalent to saving for a rainy day.
Cord blood banking is the collection of approximately two ounces of the blood that remains in the umbilical cord once it’s been cut. This cord blood ends up in one of three locations: stored in a private blood bank per the parents’ arrangements; donated to a public cord blood bank for use by anonymous patients; or discarded by the hospital/birthing center along with post-birth medical waste. The primary issue for expectant parents is to decide if they want to keep their child’s cord blood at all, and what would they use it for.
Cord blood contains medically valuable stem cells, which have the potential for use in treating many life-threatening diseases. Newborn stem cells are being used to fight against diseases such as cancer, as well as blood, immune, and metabolic disorders. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, research on using cord blood for stem cell transplants in leukemia patients “shows promising results.” Patients with certain kinds of cancer and diseases can be “matched” against cord blood samples in public registries and given transplants of stem cells. However, there is still a tremendous amount of research that needs to be done to uncover all the potential uses for cord blood stem cells.
Cord blood contains medically valuable stem cells, which have the potential for use in treating many life-threatening diseases.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding cord blood research, there are no accurate estimates of the likelihood of children needing their own stored cord blood stem cells in the future. The range of available estimates is from 1 in 1000 to more than 1 in 200,000. Although not standard of care, many doctors do agree that cord blood banking should be encouraged when there is knowledge of a sibling with a medical condition (malignant or genetic) that could potentially benefit from stem cell transplantation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine banking of cord blood. The AAP policy states:
“Cord blood donation should be discouraged when cord blood stored in a bank is to be directed for later personal or family use, because most conditions that might be helped by cord blood stem cells already exist in the infant’s cord blood.”
If you do decide to bank your baby’s cord blood in a private cord blood bank, it is important to consider the considerable cost. The initial fee for storing cord blood can run between $1,000 and $2,000, with an additional monthly fee of $100-$150. Ultimately, all expectant parents who are interested in cord blood banking should talk with their physician before making a final decision that will affect their family medically and financially for many years to come.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, August 2019
- Collecting cord blood is a simple, painless procedure that only takes minutes after birth.
- Blood collected can be stored in a public or private facility, or it will be discarded.
- Family medical history plays a role when considering cord blood banking.
- Cord blood banking can be costly, and is considered an important financial decision.