Cord Blood Banking: Factors To Consider Before Making A Decision

Posted on: 14 April 2016


Cord blood banking offers another alternative for stem cell therapy – specialized cells that can develop into other types of cells. Cord blood stem cells are used to treat all kinds of cancers, blood disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Although the collection procedure can lead to promising treatment if it's needed in the future, there are a number of questions parents may have when considering family cord blood banking or donating their baby's umbilical cord blood.

What is it?

Umbilical cord blood banking involves taking blood from your baby's umbilical cord at birth and storing it in a private or public cord blood bank. Cord blood cells could save your child's life in the future or the life of another child who develops a disease such as sickle cell anemia, lymphoma, leukemia, or another rare disease. In treating certain cancers, cord blood may be used instead of bone marrow transplants.

How much does it cost?

While cord blood banks are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the process requires paying a fee to store the blood from your baby's umbilical cord in a private cord blood bank. Costs vary among cord blood banks, but it can be expensive. In addition to the annual storage fee, you must pay an initial processing fee, which can be as low as $500 or cost as much as $2,000 or more. Annual storage fees generally range between $100 and $200.

Another alternative is to donate your baby's cord blood to a public cord blood bank. It's usually free, but the cord blood is then available to anyone who needs it. One drawback is that public cord banks are not available in all parts of the country.

What are the potential benefits of freezing cord blood?

  1. Although bone marrow contains the same type of stem cells, stem cells from an umbilical cord are less mature, therefore, the recipient's body is less likely to reject them. Using a sick child's own stem cells also poses less risk of rejection.

  2. Transplanted cord blood stem cells, which are cancer free, create a new immune system to resist disease.

  3. The procedure for taking cord blood is simple, safe, painless, and takes only minutes. Once your obstetrician or midwife clamps and cuts your newborn infant's umbilical cord, the remaining blood in the cord is collected through a syringe. The collection of cord blood is much like drawing blood for a routine blood test.

  4. If your baby's blood is a genetic match for a family member – often a sibling – who is sick, doctors can use the cells to treat that person.

What are other factors you should consider before deciding on the use of a family cord blood bank?

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  1. If your child suffers from a genetic disease, a transplant using stem cells from his or her own cord blood won't be an effective treatment, as the stem cells will have the same defective genes.

  2. In some cases, immune cells from an unrelated donor can fight diseases, such as cancer, better than a child's own immune cells.

  3. Although the volume differs with each child, the number of stem cells in cord blood are limited; therefore, there often aren't enough cells to treat adults if an adult family member should need a transplant. An adult may need more than one cord blood donation for treatment.