Cord Banks - What You Need to Know about Cord Blood Banking

More and more parents these days are discussing the option of cord blood banking, to safeguard against possible medical problems later in a child’s life. Unfortunately, it’s hard to distinguish the facts from the hype surrounding this issue. Here, Momscape hopes to shed some light on the subject to help you determine whether cord blood banking is right for you.

Cord Banking Basics

Cord blood banking is the collection and storage of your baby’s stem cells, taken from your baby’s umbilical cord shortly after birth.

These stem cells are like builder block cells. They have the ability to grow into all three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. And because these stem cells are so primitive and immature, they are more likely to create a match for someone who might need a stem cell injection in order to treat a disorder of the blood or immune system.

Scientists are working hard to discover ways that these stem cells can help our bodies repair themselves. Right now, researchers say they have used stem cells in the treatment of more than 80 diseases, but commonly, these stem cells are used in the treatment of a very specific set of diseases, those that affect the blood and immune system, such as lymphoma, leukemia, and sickle cell anemia. Still, research is underway to use cord blood to treat a variety of disorders, ranging from autism to cerebral palsy; type 1 diabetes to congenital heart defects. Here’s a complete list of diseases that doctors hope to regularly treat with cord blood: http://parentsguidecordblood.org/diseases.php )

The fact is, if you don’t have a family history of one of these diseases, your child is not at all likely to ever need her own stem cells (the chance is about 1 in 10,000). But, proponents say, it’s impossible to know what is on the horizon in this exciting new field of medicine. At present, the science isn't quite up to speed with the hopes, but that could change...

In a nutshell, you have three options after your baby’s birth:

1. Allow the cord blood to be discarded. (This is the option currently chosen by 95 percent of parents.)
2. Donate the cord blood to a public cord blood bank, to be offered to people who need stem cell transplants. (Of the five percent of parents who do not discard the cord blood, only ten percent will donate it.)
3. Bank the cord blood in a private cord blood bank and pay for its storage, in case the child (or another genetic match in the family) ever needs it. Ninety percent of the parents who choose to not discard the cord blood will bank it privately.

How Does Cord Blood Banking Work?

If you are interested in banking your baby’s cord blood, you will need to have your plans finalized by the 34th week of pregnancy. Your health care practitioner needs to know what you would like done with the cord blood well in advance, and your public or private cord bank (depending on whether you choose to donate or privately bank the cord blood), will need to process some paperwork in preparation for accepting your baby’s cord blood.

Directly following your baby’s birth, once the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, your doctor will take the cord blood from the umbilical cord. This is done in a couple of different ways, depending on the cord blood bank you have chosen, but no matter what the collection method, the process is quick, lasting less than ten minutes. No blood will be taken from your baby, and proponents say, that collecting the cord blood is completely safe. This collection can happen with c-section births as well as traditional deliveries.

Once the collection has taken place, the cord blood is sent to a facility where it is frozen with liquid nitrogen, thus “cryopreserving” it, in case you ever need it. If you have donated the cord blood, it typically becomes part of the BetheMatch.org registry, and it becomes open to people who need a stem cell injection to help treat disease. Note that about sixty percent of cord blood donations are not used for transplants (typically because the donation doesn’t have enough stem cells to be viable for this purpose). In this case, the cord blood is generally given for medical research. This raises concerns from some parents because, at this time, a donor has no say as to what kind of research their baby’s cord blood might be used for and some parents worry that the cord blood could be used for unethical purposes, say for the research and development of biological weapons, for example. This possibility prevents some parents from donating the cord blood at all. 

Learn more about how to donate cord blood here.  You’ll find links to participating hospitals, as well as mail-in donation programs, just in case your birth hospital does not take cord blood donations.

Choosing a Private Cord Blood Bank

Also known as family cord blood banks, private cord blood banks allow you to store your child’s frozen cord blood in a facility, allowing you to retrieve it if your child or another family member might ever need it.

These cord blood banks are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration and the storage isn’t cheap. Collection and twenty-year storage of your child’s cord blood will cost in the neighborhood of $2500 to $5500, depending on the cord blood bank you choose. Some say that’s a small price to pay for piece of mind.

Note that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend donating your child’s cord blood over private banking, unless there is a genetic history of blood or immune disorders.

If your child does not suffer from one of these disorders, her likelihood of ever using her own banked cord blood is quite small. Statistics and estimates vary, but it seems the likelihood is only about 1 in 10,000 (or .01%). Learn more about private or family cord blood banking here.

How to Find the Best Cord Blood Banks

If you are considering a cord blood bank for your new baby, there are many important questions to ask. To discover all of your options, I recommend you start by using the Find a Family Cord Blood Bank tool here.
http://parentsguidecordblood.org/findabank.php

Use this cord blood bank comparison chart to further narrow your choices:
http://parentsguidecordblood.org/price_options.php?country=233
This chart covers more than thirty different family cord blood banks, including Life Bank, Stemcyte, Viacord, and Cord Blood Registry (CBR).

Once you have a few in mind, reach out to these cord blood banks, ask for an information kit and talk to a company representative to make sure you get answers to all of the questions you’ll find at this link: http://parentsguidecordblood.org/faqs.php?tag=21

These questions cover everything from the financial stability of the company to the cord blood bank’s lab standards, as well as pricing and financing options.