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Is Private Cord Blood Banking Right for My Baby and what are Cord Blood Banking Pros and Cons?

By Edited Sep 13, 2015 2 5

Yawning Newborn

Like many parents, you may have picked up a brochure at your OBGYN’s office that describes umbilical cord blood banking. These brochures make it seem as if banking cord blood is one more thing that a responsible parent can do to secure a child’s future.  At $2-3,000 for a setup fee and $1-200 a year afterwards, the fee is lower than your child’s first car or a semester of college. However, before you send in a check, you should know all the pros and cons about banking cord blood.

Pros of Cord Blood Banking

In ancient medicine, the placenta has a special place. Chinese physicians from antiquity prescribed that new mothers consume the placenta as part of postpartum healing. In the 18th century, dried placenta was an ingredient in several European remedies. In several cultures, mothers or fathers bury the placenta, either as part of a ritual or a ceremony to celebrate the baby’s life.

In the United States before the 1970’s modern hospitals incinerated the placenta as part of biomedical waste. Then researchers noticed that the blood in the umbilical cord and placenta was rich in the same kind of stem cells that were present in bone marrow. These stem cells can be used to create the three types of blood cells –red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. These stem cells can also reproduce more stem cells at a rapid rate.

Cord blood banking is a way to stockpile healthy cells for use in treating potential illnesses for anyone who matches the donor of that cell.

Cons of Private Cord Blood Banking

Mother and child first contact
The American Medical Association only recommends private storage of cord blood if there is a genetic predisposition in a family to develop a genetic disease or cancer. Studies performed by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute indicate that privately banked cord blood is rarely used to treat disease.  The few instances where families used stored cord blood are situations where the family already had a predisposition for a certain disease.

 Also, some detractors of private cord blood banking organizations charge that their literature is misleading because it indicates that the stem cells in cord blood is used for many more illnesses than it actually is used for. At the moment, most cord blood research that these companies rely on for their literature is anecdotal and not backed by facts.

Although it is possible that doctors may use stem cells to treat many more diseases in the future, the research is in its infancy at the moment. Stem cell research is also slowed by legislation intended to hamper the use of stem cells harvested from embryos.

Another charge that critics of private banks level at the companies is that they do not tell donors that the cord blood that they harvest can’t always be used on the child who donates the blood.  Cord blood from a certain child has the genetic markers for that child, including any genetic defects. If the child later develops a disorder due to one of these genetic defects, the blood may not correct the genetic defect. Instead, new cells that the child develops may also have the same genetic defects.

However, the cord blood can also be used to treat siblings, parents or other relatives for whom the blood matches. Should the infant later become ill, he may need to rely on banked blood from another sibling, or possibly cord blood from a national donor registry if doctors rule out use of stem cells from his own blood for treatment.

Hiring a private cord blood bank to store your baby's stem cells is one way to insure that your family may be protected from future genetic diseases. Just be aware of exactly what you are getting for your money when you do so. 



Feb 19, 2012 1:13am
Considering the immense medical value of stem cells (and the religious right's efforts to insure any research along those lines are stopped on "moral" grounds), not only should private stem cell/cord banks NOT charge the donor anything, they should be PAYING for the privilege. Granted, as you pointed out, these materials may not always go for the purpose or person banked upon, but they can be almost priceless -- good article!! Big ol' "STEM CELLS ROCK!" thumb's up!
Feb 20, 2012 11:50am
I should add that I'm 8 months pregnant at this point. Thanks to the research that I did for this article, I found out that my state just launched a public donor program for cord blood banking. My husband and I decided to donate our new baby's cord blood to the state bank. If they receive 100 donations, they can be listed on the national cord blood donor registry. Our donor kit arrived just this weekend.

A lot of the folks who rely on the registries for donations are people who can't afford private banking, which unfortunate, because they also fall into the demographics that are most likely to need cord blood for genetic disorders.

I feel a lot better knowing that our baby's cord blood won't go to waste, and that it may help out someone who really needs it. Most states have a state donor program for cord blood now. If they don't you can still arrange to donate your cord baby's blood to a surrounding state research facility. It may not go to treat an illness, but it can still go to research.
Feb 22, 2012 2:58am
Absolutely the correct spirit in which to handle this. Congrats on having a place to donate so others may benefit in the long run (someday)!
Feb 22, 2012 5:36am
I am so happy that you have written this article. I am in the UK and could cry at the waste.I have 4 children and a son that was stillborn. When you go through something like that ( he was my first born),it usually makes you take anything to do with babies less for granted than before. He was born in 2000, so I did not even have the internet to gain knowledge or support with, but by 2002 when my 1st daughter was born I had heard about cord blood and stem cells. I was determined that whilst I could do nothing for my son, I would make sure myself and daughter would help other babies.
When I was in labour I asked the midwife if they knew anything about cord donation and could I do it. She looked at me and said abruptly " What an earth are you on about, yes we check the placenta and them dispose of it for you". "What?" I said,"never mind, you obviously don't do it". I subsequently had another few babies in 2004, 2006 and 2010, not one midwife knew of cord donation and even with 10 years different I found that the UK health care is still lacking severely.
It really does upset me that I wanted to help others and was stopped by uncaring professionals who did not even record my request for record.
Your article puts more awareness out there, let us hope that someone in the UK health system sees the value of cord banking.
Feb 22, 2012 5:39am
Ps, after my little rant I just searched for this subject and guess what, it is available in the UK. Guess midwives need to keep up to date.
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