Ask the doctor: Should I bank my cord blood?

Q:  I’m pregnant. My husband and I are both healthy. Is it worth it to save our cord blood? How could we use it?

pregnant belly pregnancy 300x199 Ask the doctor: Should I bank my cord blood? Photo

Is it worth banking your cord blood?

A. Sure, money is tight and with all the changes to your family associated with this new baby and financial demands, it’s understandable that you would question the value to each purchase.

Technology now allows us to obtain stem cells from cord blood for children and adults in need of a stem cell transplant. What’s more, these stem cells are not individual-specific so that most people can tolerate the transplant without rejection reactions (a boon for those who can’t locate a matched donor).

There are advantages to this “one-time” collection act.

Benefits and Usage of Umbilical Cord Blood

The many therapeutic uses for cord blood include treatment for:

  • Leukemia
  • Sickle Cell disease
  • Thalassemia
  • Lymphoma and certain other cancers
  • Metabolic disorders

If you currently have a child or other family member suffering from one of the above conditions, storage of this baby’s cord blood can be done for free at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program.

Disadvantages of Cord Blood Storage

Let’s face it.  Regardless of how much benefit you see in storage, it is expensive.  Initial collection and processing can range from $595 to $1,835, depending on which bank you select. Additional fees are billed yearly for storage and typically cost around $95-$110.

What’s more, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend this procedure, pointing out that the need for this blood may only arise between 1:1000 and 1:200,000. Proof that a child may need the sample in the future has not been demonstrated.  In a policy they issued back in 2007, (Cord Blood Banking for Potential Future Transplantation) The AAP concluded that “biological insurance” should be discouraged. Even many obstetricians feel that storage of cord blood from a healthy baby is unnecessary.

Still, if you have a sick child, you would be wildly grateful that you have a saved specimen that will successfully treat him/her.  After all, you carry life insurance but hope you won’t die so that the investment is worthwhile!  It is the “what-ifs” in life that may be expensive but allow us to sleep at night.

Other Options

Fortunately, should the situation arise where transplantation of stem cells from cord blood is the answer, you still have access to specimens available in public banks.

If you decide not to save the cord blood for your family (whether due to financial constraints or not seeing the value in doing so), you can donate your baby’s umbilical cord blood into a public bank for the use of someone in need without charge.

Public Banks

Free public blood banks have been established as part of the National Marrow Donor Program Network in at least a dozen major cities in the U.S. and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends donating cord blood here.

These nonprofit centers are supported by both federal and private funds.  When giving a cord blood donation (at no cost), the baby’s mother consents to relinquishing all rights to the cord blood for the public’s benefit.  In addition, she makes her medical records and family history accessible and has her blood tested for infectious diseases.

Whether it is stored for your family or as a charitable contribution, there is no reason to simply discard the sample-

  • It may save a life
  • It’s painless to collect
  • It’s simply thrown out if not collected at the time of delivery
  • It can be free

Making arrangements to store the blood especially to help others is a decision that you and your husband can feel good about.

In the long run, it’s still a decision that only the two of you can make, but whichever way you go, it will be the best answer for you.

We wish you the best of luck with your forthcoming delivery.  It is truly the start of something exciting and wondrous!