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    Banking Your Baby's Cord Blood

    The pros and cons, costs, and reasons behind saving your newborn's umbilical cord blood.

    Public Cord Blood Banking

    There is an alternative to private banking. Some parents decide to donate their child's cord blood to a public cord blood bank for free, which makes it available to anyone who needs it. Most doctors and medical organizations favor public donation. The Institute of Medicine has proposed that Congress create a National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Program along the lines of the national bone marrow donation system.

    In the unlikely event that your child ever needs the cord blood you donated to a public bank, odds are good that you will be able to get it back.

    "The chances that anyone will ever use a particular unit of cord blood that you donate is small," says Feig. "So if your child needs it 10 years down the pike, there's an overwhelming chance that the cells will still be available."

    Obviously, there's no guarantee, but it's something to keep in mind. If you are interested in public cord blood donation, get in touch with the National Marrow Donor Program at www.marrow.org. You can also ask your health care provider about medical centers in your area that might accept donations.

    But Ecker points out that we're still a ways off from organized public cord blood banking. In most of the country, a public donation isn't even possible. There's no system in place. So for many people, the choice isn't between public and private banking. It's between private banking and letting the cord blood go to waste.

    Making the Choice About Cord Blood

    Deciding to bank your child's cord blood is a personal decision. Some people feel that the potential benefits are too few to justify the money. Others believe that it's a worthwhile investment.

    The key is to understand the details so you can make a rational decision. Whatever you do, don't let yourself be pushed into a choice.

    "I think it's fine if a parent makes an informed decision to do this," says Caplan. "But I don't like parents being guilted or shamed into this by misleading advertising. No one should make you feel like irresponsible or reckless parents if you don't choose to bank your child's cord blood." He says that people who are expecting a child are especially vulnerable to this sort of pressure.

    But if you research the possible benefits and feel that banking your baby's blood would give you peace of mind -- and you're comfortable with the cost -- then do it. Talk to your health care provider and start researching some of the banks. Also, read about the best way to assess your need for banking cord blood.

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