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Cord Blood Banking: Deciding About Public or Private Donations

Cord blood banking can be a priceless investment.

After birth, your baby no longer needs the umbilical cord or placenta. But the blood that remains could be a lifesaver for a patient who needs it, including a member of your own family. That's because this blood is rich with blood-forming stem cells. As with bone marrow transplants, these cells can be transplanted and help save the lives of patients with leukemia or other life-threatening diseases.

Should you consider donating your infant's cord blood to a public bank? Or should you bank it for your own family's use? Here is information that may help you decide.

What You Should Know About Public Cord Blood Banking

If you make a donation to a public cord blood bank, you can't reserve it for your family, so it may not be available for your future use. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Medical Association (AMA) recommend public cord blood banking over private cord blood banking. Here's why:

  • Public cord blood banking is free.
  • Public cord blood banking makes stem cells available to anyone who needs them.
  • Public cord blood donation will increase the number and diversity of cord blood units available for patients. Widespread donations by minorities will expand the available pool of minority cord blood units in the public system and make it easier for the following groups to find matches:
    • American Indians and Alaska Natives
    • Asians
    • African-Americans
    • Hispanics
    • Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
    • People who are multiracial

If you choose to donate cord blood for public use, you should be aware that the blood will be tested for both genetic abnormalities and infectious diseases. If any are found, someone will notify you.

What You Should Know About Private Cord Blood Banking

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) neither recommends nor advises against cord blood banking. But along with the AAP and AMA, it cautions parents about private cord blood banking. Here's why:

  • Collection and storage costs at private cord blood banks are high.
  • Other effective treatments may be available that are less expensive.
  • The chance of privately banked cord blood being used by your child is extremely low.
  • Stem cell transplant using an individual’s own cord blood (called an autologous transplant) cannot be used for genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, because the genetic mutations which cause these disorders are present in the baby's cord blood. Other diseases that are treated with stem cell transplant, such as leukemia, may also already be present in a baby’s cord blood.

Because of these limitations and the uncommon occurrence of the diseases treatable with stem cell transplant, there have been fewer than 150 autologous cord blood transplants in the last two decades. In contrast, more than 14,000 unrelated donor cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide.

WebMD Medical Reference

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