Cord Blood Banking
There are few things that you can invest your money in that have the potential to save your child's life. Sure, buying a car seat, getting your child vaccinated, and having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home can save your child, but none of these will cure her if she gets sick.
Unlike these preventive strategies, storing your baby's umbilical cord stem cells in a cord blood bank does have the potential to save her if she someday gets seriously sick. Once collected, stored, and saved, umbilical cord stem cells can later be used for a stem cell transplant if your child develops a genetic disease or a type of blood disorder or cancer that can be treated with a bone marrow transplant.
In recent years, many for-profit programs that collect and store umbilical cord stem cells have been developed. You probably have seen advertising in parenting magazines and may even have received brochures in the mail describing these services. Because your baby's cord blood must be collected at the time she is born, you will have to think about and be prepared to have her cord blood collected while you are still expecting. It is not a decision you can make later.
If you have a child with sickle cell disease, thalassemia, leukemia, lymphoma, or another cancer, you may be eligible for free collection and storage of the umbilical cord stem cells of your future children through the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute Sibling Donor Cord Blood Program (
The marketing of the cord blood banks that describe a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” can be persuasive, but the procedure is expensive. After a one-time “banking fee” of about $1,500 to $1,700, you will have to pay about $95 a year to store the stem cells. Even with payment plans, that is a lot of money for most new parents.
It doesn't hurt your baby to take the blood from the cut umbilical cord, and this blood would just be thrown out if you decided not to save it. That seems to leave money as the main deciding factor. So should you pay to bank your baby's umbilical cord stem cells? If it is something that you can afford and you feel better knowing that you are storing your baby's stem cells in case you ever need them, then signing up with a cord blood bank might be for you.
When making your decision, keep in mind the clinical report on cord blood banking by the AAP, which concluded that “private storage of cord blood as ‘biological insurance’ is unwise.” In other words, the AAP doesn't think that it is necessary for the average parent to store their child's cord blood. However, it may be a good idea if you already have a family member who needs or may need a stem cell transplant due to leukemia, a severe hemoglobinopathy, or other disorder, both because he may be able to use your baby's cord blood for a transplant and because your child may be at increased risk of developing these conditions too. The AAP does recommend that parents donate their babies' stem cells to nonprofit centers, like the National Marrow Donor Program cord blood banks, so that they can be used for stem cell transplants in unrelated recipients.