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Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Couples should consider a public cord blood bank first, where stem cells are made available to anyone needing them
During some recent "pre-natal" interviews with couples expecting their first baby, I've been asked about cord blood banking. This question often comes up as prospective parents receive information from either their obstetricians or via the mail regarding private companies that will "bank" a baby's umbilical cord blood.
In theory, the storage of cord blood is being touted as "biological insurance" in case the child (or possibly another full sibling) may need a stem cell transplant due to a malignancy, bone marrow failure, or certain other metabolic diseases during their lifetime. The chance of this happening is remote, and at the same time, most conditions that might be helped by cord blood already exist in the infant's cord blood stem cells and therefore they would not be used (premalignant changes can be found in stem cells).
However, when parents hear that cord blood may someday help their still unborn child, then look at the financial commitment, which may be thousands of dollars, they're can be caught thinking, "It's only money."
In reality, the investment is not guaranteed and to date there's not much scientific data to support autologous (a baby's own) stem cell transplantation. (
This being said, private self-storage programs should be discouraged and umbilical cord blood banking should be encouraged, when banked for public use via The National Marrow Donation Program, or via state run cord blood banks. In this way, cord blood stem cells are available to anyone who might need a transplant and could possibly be a match for your child. The cells may also be used for ongoing research purposes at major medical centers and universities across the U.S.
When using a public donor cord blood bank, the bank pays for the collection and storing of the baby's cord blood, and there is no initial or yearly bill for storing the blood. The cord blood is stored in a consistent manner which complies with national accreditation standards. There's no need to worry about a financial conflict of interest that may occur when using a private company.
Lastly, research continues to look at the storage life of cord blood units, and paying a yearly fee for a child until age 18, 21, or into perpetuity may not even guarantee the stem cells' viability.
Talk to your OB-Gyn about donating an infant's cord blood to the public bank, if that's possible in your area. The cord blood bank would need to be notified 4-6 weeks before the baby is due. Once the cord blood is donated, parents will be notified of any abnormalities found in the blood (genetic or infectious, etc.).
Lastly, put the money you would have spent with a private cord blood banking company into your child's college savings plan. You have a much better chance of needing that "bank account."
Available at Amazon.com:
Health - Is Cord Blood Banking Worth It?