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Cord Blood Banking

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Cord Blood can be used to Treats Many Diseases

Did you know that your cord blood can either be privately banked or donated?

Over four million umbilical cords are thrown away each year in the United States shortly after the mother gives birth. New research has shown that the blood remaining in the umbilical cord (cord blood), which is high in stem cells, can help to treat many diseases including leukemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia and certain metabolic storage disorders.

The process is simple and easy for both parent and baby. In fact, no needles or instruments come near the baby or mother. Once the umbilical cord has been cut after your baby is safely delivered, doctors use syringes to extract the blood from it and then send the vial to storage for processing and cryogenic freezing.

The cord blood can either be privately banked or donated. The difference between the two is that if you privately bank it, you will have to pay for the storage; most facilities will give you the exclusive rights to its use, however there are some banks which only give you access to someone’s cord blood but not necessarily your baby’s. If you donate it, then others with diseases that can be cured using cord blood will have access to it. If you or a family member becomes ill and someone else has already used it, you will have to find a matching donor within the system.

Of course the cord blood will only be a direct match for the baby it came from, or an identical twin. If a parent, aunt or other family member becomes ill, there is only a twenty five percent chance that the cord blood from your baby will match with them.

So now you find yourself asking, why should I consider preserving my baby’s cord blood? What are the pros and cons?

Advantages of Preserving your Baby’s Cord Blood

  • The taking of cord blood is easy and painless; while the taking of bone marrow, which is the other source from which stem cells can be taken, is painful and comes with considerable risks.

  • It offers the chance to have certain diseases immediately dealt with, and gives the patient a higher survival rate.

  • If one of your family members becomes ill, they will have a better chance of matching with your baby’s stem cells and thus surviving.

Although many sites will extol the virtues of cord blood banking without telling you the cons, there are some factors you should take into consideration before making your decision.

Factors to Consider before Preserving your Baby’s Cord Blood

  • Only about 1 in 2700 people who save their child’s umbilical cord blood will ever use it. This means that if you choose to privately bank your baby’s cord blood, you may be paying quite a bit of money for nothing.

  • It costs approximately $1500 US for the initial collection of the cord blood, and another $95 US per year for the storage, if you choose to privately bank the cord blood. Since cord blood can only be stored for twenty one years, that means you could pay around $3495 US and never use it.

  • While a family member has a better chance of matching with your babies stem cells, there is still only a 25% success rate.

  • Some diseases can be treated using other remedies if the stem cells weren’t available. For instance, stem cell transplants could be used to treat leukemia, but it is no more effective than chemotherapy.

  • Doctors rarely transplant the child’s own blood because it may already be contaminated by the disease.

There are fourteen National Marrow Donor Program Cord Blood Banks available in the US. There is no cost to donate at these banks, and the stem cells you provide may help save another person’s life. You must live near one of these banks in order to donate your child’s cord blood.

They are located in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

A quick search of the internet will bring up many private cord blood banks. Here are a few of them. Remember that these are banks that store the stem cells for a fee.

  • Cord Blood Family Trust.

  • Cryo-Cell International

  • Life Bank USA

  • National Children’s Leukemia Foundation

If your child or a family member has already been diagnosed with a disease that can be cured using your baby’s stem cells, then the decision becomes much easier. However if not, it would be wise to talk to your doctor, and then consider your options very carefully before coming to a final decision.

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