What Is Cord Blood Banking?

You’ve probably seen the television commercials and skimmed through a pamphlet in your OB-GYN’s waiting room, but you may still be uncertain of what cord banking is exactly and if it is the right choice for you and your family. To help moms and moms-to-be make informed choices, we’ve taken a closer look at cord blood banking, its benefits and associated costs:

What Is Cord Blood Banking? 

The blood within a newborn baby’s umbilical cord contains young stem cells that can renew themselves and become specialized. These cord blood stem cells can be used in treatment to help children replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones and strengthen their immune systems. Cord blood banking specifically is the process of removing stem cell rich blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord after it is cut—therefore making it available to all new parents, regardless of delivery method— using either the syringe or the bag method. A laboratory then processes the blood within 48 hours and stores it in a private blood bank chosen by the donor’s (i.e. baby’s) parents. Parents can visit The American Association of Blood Banks for a list of accredited banks.

What Are The Benefits of Cord Blood Banking? 

The stem cells from the stored blood may then be used in the future as a treatment for the donor (although only 14 such procedures have ever been performed, according to the Institute of Medicine), a sibling (there is a 25% probability of a match), or a young relative if he or she is to become ill. Some experts believe that banking cord blood may be a wise choice if someone in your family already suffers from leukemia, sickle cell anemia or other blood disorders; however, the current uses of cord blood are limited.

Not everyone is a proponent of cord blood banking however, and many medical associations don’t support the practice for most people, as the benefits are too remote to justify the large expense. The policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “private storage of cord blood as ‘biological insurance’ is unwise,” unless, of course, there is a family member with a current or potential future need of stem cell transplantation.

What Is The Cost of Cord Blood Banking?

The cost of banking your baby’s cord blood varies by bank, but most charge an initial processing fee in the range of $900 to $2,100 and then up to $200 annually for the duration of the banking. The National Marrow Donor Program has stated that properly stored cord blood should be good for up to 10 years. For parents who wish to donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank, there is no cost involved and the chances that their little one’s cord blood can benefit another child are great. According to BabyCenter.com, “Those who advocate public cord blood donation say the stem cells have more value for the 70 percent of patients who don’t have a matching donor in their family and must search the public banks for a suitable donor.”

If you are interested in private or public cord blood banking, speak with your health care provider ideally between your 28th and 34th weeks of pregnancy.

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