Cord Blood Banking
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: Cord blood banking wasn’t an option when I was pregnant, but if it had been, I definitely would have taken advantage of it. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which are considered to be the master cells of the body, and they’ve been used to successfully treat more than 80 serious diseases, including leukemia and other cancers and blood disorders. In the future, it’s likely that doctors will use stem cells from banked cord blood to repair damaged or diseased tissues and organs.
Cord blood collection is safe and simple for moms and babies. Some families want to allow the cord blood to continue to pulse to the baby after delivery, and that is perfectly acceptable. In the moments after your baby is born, the doctor or midwife simply collects blood from the part of the umbilical cord that is attached to the placenta.
If this blood isn’t collected, it will end up being discarded as medical waste. Once the doctor or midwife has collected the blood, it’s placed into bags or syringes and delivered to a cord-blood bank, where it is given an identifying number and frozen in liquid nitrogen. Theoretically, the stem cells can last indefinitely if stored properly. Hopefully, your child will never have to use them, but you can take comfort in knowing that they’re available if you ever need them.
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: Yes, I banked all three of my children’s cord blood. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, we had a very limited income. My husband originally said we couldn’t afford to bank her cord blood. I said, “Wait a minute. How much do those Starbucks you buy each day add up to in a year?” When he came up with the figure, I replied, “You can drink Folgers at home for a year, and we can do cord blood banking.” That’s how important it was to me.
For my second and third daughters, I used Cord Blood Registry, and that’s the company I recommend to my patients when they ask. I highly recommend cord blood banking. It costs a one-time banking fee and then a storage fee each year, which is locked in at a set rate when your child is born. You only have one opportunity to save your child’s cord blood. I knew that someday if my child needed it, I’d never forgive myself if I hadn’t saved it because it’s the simplest thing I could have done.
The current statistics are that a child born today who lives to be 70 has a 1 in 400 chance she will use her cord blood. She has a 1 in 200 chance that she or her sibling will use it. If you consider the research that’s being done on regenerative medicine, the chance that a child born today who lives to age 70 would have the opportunity to use her cord blood is 1 in 10. Cord blood cells have been used to treat nearly 80 diseases, including leukemia and other blood disorders. (The list is available here.) Stem cell research holds so much promise that the number of diseases and injuries being treated is growing rapidly.
There are public banks that you can donate your baby’s cord blood to for free. If a public bank has your sample, then it is free to you. However, there’s no guarantee that your child’s cord blood will even be there if you need it. If you didn’t save it or if you have a match that isn’t yours in a public bank, it costs between $25,000 and $40,000 to get a sample for use.
I believe that when our kids today are adults, they’ll go to the ER for a heart attack or stroke, and the nurse will ask, “Do you have your cord blood banked?” The answer to that question will determine their first step in treatment.
—Marra Francis, MD, a mom of three daughters and an ob-gyn, in The Woodlands, TX
Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I’m currently pregnant, and I’m a proponent of cord blood banking. I banked my daughter’s cord blood, and I intend to bank my next child’s cord blood also. There are so many possibilities that scientists are working on regarding cord blood research. Who knows what diseases they will be able to cure with cord blood in the future? For me, the expense of banking cord blood is well worth the risk of hopefully never needing to use it.
The advice that I received from my ob in choosing a cord blood banking company was to choose one of the larger companies that have been around for a while versus one of the many new start-up companies. If the new ones close down, what happens to your baby’s cord blood?
—Jeannette Gonzalez Simon, MD, a mom of a two-year-old daughter who’s expecting another baby and a pediatric gastroenterologist in private practice, in Staten Island, NY
Of the many cord blood banks in the United States, Cord Blood Registry (CBR) is the world’s largest and most experienced, entrusted with storing more than 350,000 cord blood collections for individuals and their families.
CBR’s laboratory storage facility in Tucson, AZ, was the first family cord blood stem cell bank in the world. Inside, the lab is an amazingly high-tech facility. But outside, the building is nondescript, in an almost secret location, for security purposes.
In its 20-year history, CBR also helped more clients use their cord blood stem cells for lifesaving transplants and experimental regenerative medicine therapies than any other family bank.
Visit CordBlood.com to learn more about cord blood banking.