Cord Blood Banking
Cord blood banking is an option for parents who want to preserve the blood of the
umbilical cord and placenta of their baby as "insurance" to help with possible future
medical needs of their child. It can also be used for other biologically matched children,
either in their own family or the general public.
What is cord blood?
Cord blood, found in the umbilical cord and placenta, is rich in stem cells. These
cells have the amazing potential to grow into many types of cells. Scientists believe
that these cells can play a role in healing a variety of diseases, including cancer.
The only time that you can put these cord stem cells into storage is right after birth.
Stem cells are found in parts of the body, like the blood and bone marrow. But they
are much more difficult to collect.
Why save cord blood?
Deciding to save cord blood is a personal decision. Many people do it because the
cells in cord blood are a perfect match to that baby and could be used to help him
or her survive a serious health threat, like immune system disorders or problems with
metabolism. Some experts believe that the chance that any given child will need his
or her own cord blood stem cells is about 1 in 2,700.
Stem cells cannot be used to treat a genetic disease—a disease that your child is
born with—because they carry the same genes that caused the disease. They also can't
be used to treat your child if he or she develops leukemia. But the cells can be used
to help treat a biological "match"—another youngster who has similar biological qualities
and needs stem cells.
How cord blood is collected
Cord blood collection is quick and painless. After the baby is delivered, your healthcare
provider will close off the umbilical cord using a clamp. Then, using a needle, the
healthcare provider will draw out the blood into a sterile bag. This will be sealed
before the placenta is delivered. Sometimes the cord is simply tilted to let the blood
drain into a bag. Between one-half and 1 cup of stem cell-rich cord blood can be collected.
This must be done within 15 minutes of birth.
In some instances, it's not possible to get enough cord blood, like when a baby is
premature or when twins shared a placenta. Certain infections may rule out cord blood
collection as well.
Depending on the policies of your hospital and your health insurance, a collection
fee may be involved. Check in advance to find out whether there are any charges you
will have to cover.
Options for storing cord blood
After collection, the blood is sent to the facility of your choice, where it will
be processed and then frozen in storage. No one is certain how long cord blood lasts.
Some experts believe it can be stored for 21 years or more.
You have two options for storing cord blood: public storage or private storage. These
storage spaces are referred to as "banks." The facility you choose should be accredited
through the American Association of Blood Banks.
Storing cord blood in a public bank is free. But like a blood bank, the facility makes
your stored cord blood available to other children who are biological matches.
Storing cord blood in a private bank means that the cord blood will be available to
your family only. This type of storage requires both an initial fee and annual storage
fees. The initial fee could be as high as $2,000, with annual storage fees of approximately
$100. Make sure you understand all the fees involved in private storage. Also, find
out what would happen if the bank were to go out of business.