Cord Blood Banking: Is It Worth It?

Blood bag

Most of what I’ve heard about cord blood banking falls into two categories: (1) It could save my unborn baby’s life in the future and (2) It costs a lot of money. It’s obviously hard (if not impossible) to put a price on your child’s life, but how can you be sure you’re not wasting money on a service you don’t need? I did some research into the cord blood banking process and learned some surprising facts – facts that changed my mind about whether or not I’ll bank my baby’s cord blood when s/he’s born this year.

Whether or not to bank cord blood – and how to do it – is a personal decision. Here’s some basic information to help you make the choice that’s right for your family.

What Is It?

Cord blood is collected from your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after he or she is born, and the cells contained in that blood can be used to help treat life-threatening diseases like leukemia and lymphoma. Cord blood that is not collected for banking will otherwise be thrown away.

Who Can Use Cord Blood?

If you choose to store your baby’s cord blood in a private bank (at your own cost), the unit will be available to your baby and/or a sibling if they should need it in the future. If you donate the cord blood (at NO COST TO YOU), the unit will be entered into a national registry and will be available to anyone who is a match for the donation. (I didn’t know you could donate cord blood free of charge to possibly help save someone else’s life! This was a game-changer for me.)

What About My Privacy?

Your cord blood donation will be completely anonymous.

When Is It Collected?

Cord blood is generally collected in the 10 minutes immediately after your baby is born, which means you’re going to be so focused on other things you’ll never even notice. No blood is collected directly from your baby.

How Much Does It Cost?

You can donate cord blood at no cost. (Free free free!) The March of Dimes estimates current rates for private storage at $1,700 to $2,000 for the collection, plus a yearly storage fee of $125.

How Do I Decide Between Private Banking and Donation?

Also from the March of Dimes:

How likely is a baby to someday need treatment with his own stem cells? It is very unlikely that a baby will need a transplant of his own cord-blood stem cells (the chances are estimated at about 1 in 2,700). If a child does require a stem-cell transplant, his own stem cells usually are not the safest or most effective source of stem cells for treatment, especially in cases of childhood cancers or inherited (genetic) disorders. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers unwise the private storage of cord blood as biological insurance by families who do not have a history of the disorders mentioned above. However, the AAP and many scientists favor the collection and storage of cord blood in public banks to be used for unrelated recipients who urgently need blood cell transplants.

How Can I Bank/Donate?

Before your 34th week of pregnancy, let your local cord blood bank (and your doctor) know you’re interested in cord blood collection. This allows the bank time to send you a collection kit.

Where Can I Find More Information?

The National Marrow Donor Program has links that will help you understand the process, learn how and when and where you can either store or donate your cord blood, and what you need to do now. The March of Dimes has additional information.

What I’m Thinking

Until today, I thought cord blood banking was only for private use, and I personally couldn’t justify spending that much money on what is basically flawed insurance I might not ever need. It made sense for other families, but not for mine. But now that I know I can donate my baby’s cord blood? And that it’s an easy, no-cost, painless chance to possibly help someone with a life-threatening disease? And that my hospital is on this list of facilities who work directly with local cord blood banks? I’ve made my decision: I’m donating my baby’s cord blood and maybe together we’ll save someone’s life.

Have you looked into cord blood collection? Do you have any plans to bank or donate?