Practical advice for new parents

Banking Cord Blood

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If you are expecting, you have probably received some literature about cord blood banking. The marketing materials from companies that bank cord blood are very persuasive. Who wouldn't want to do what is best for their child? But, there remains a great deal of controversy over whether or not it is an essential expense for parents to pay for this service. Before you decide whether or not cord banking is right for your family, it's important to review the facts.

Cord blood banking refers to the saving and cryogenic storage of umbilical cord blood. The blood is harvested at the time of birth and stored at one of the many companies that offers this service. The benefit of the service is to provide a source of cord blood stem cells that can be used for transplant to treat conditions such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, aplastic anemia, leukemia, metabolic storage disorders, and several genetic immunodeficiencies. Because the cells are a perfect match to the child, there is no need to find another donor. The cells are also more likely to match those of other family members than those of unrelated donors.

An important consideration when you are exploring the idea of banking your baby's cord blood is the price. With an initial collection fee and an annual storage fee, banking the blood until your child reaches adulthood can cost on average $3500.00. Along with all of the other costs associated with having a baby, many families simply cannot afford to bank their child's cord blood.

While many parents feel guilty for not taking this one time opportunity, they shouldn't. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend that cord blood is banked for future use as most conditions that can be treated by these stem cells are quite rare. The statistics are approximately 1 in 2,700 children will develop a condition where the cord blood stem cells could be used as a treatment. These numbers are somewhat misleading though as these conditions might also be treated with other types of therapies if the stem cells weren't available. However, if you are already the parent of a child with one of these conditions, it might be well worth the expense.

An alternative to using one of the private cord blood banks is to donate your child's cord blood to one the National Marrow Donor Cord Blood Banks located in 14 states in the U.S. The donated stem cells can then be used by unrelated individuals who need transplants. There is no cost or risk associated with this type of donation.