There are so many things to think about when you have a child. One of them is the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord (which connects the baby to the mother while in the womb). It used to be thrown away at birth, but now, many parents store the blood for the future health of their child. Should you do it?
What Can It Be Used For?
The fluid is easy to collect and has 10 times more stem cells than those collected from bone marrow.
Stem cells from cord blood rarely carry any infectious diseases and are half as likely to be rejected as adult stem cells.
How Do You Get It?
If you want the blood stored, after the birth, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord in two places, about 10 inches apart, and cuts the cord, separating mother from baby. Then she inserts a needle and collects at least 40 milliliters of blood from the cord. The blood is sealed in a bag and sent to a lab or cord blood bank for testing and storage. The process only takes a few minutes and is painless for mother and baby.
The cord blood bank may also send tubes so that the mother’s blood can be taken, too. If so, the banking kit will have instructions along with blood collection tubes.
Where Is It stored?
There are three options:
Public cord banks don't charge anything for storage. Any donation made is available for anyone who needs it. The bank may also use the donated cord blood for research.
Private (commercial) cord banks will store the donated blood for use by the donor and family members only. They can be expensive. These banks charge a fee for processing and an annual fee for storage.
Direct-donation banks are a combination of public and private banks. They store cord blood for public use. But they also accept donations reserved for families. No fee is charged.
Should You Bank Your Baby's Cord Blood?
It depends on who you ask. Although commercial cord blood banks often bill their services as "biological insurance" against future diseases, the blood doesn’t often get used. One study says the chance that a child will use their cord blood over their lifetime is between 1 in 400 and 1 in 200,000.
The stored blood can't always be used, even if the person develops a disease later on, because if the disease was caused by a genetic mutation, it would also be in the stem cells. Current research says the stored blood may only be useful for 15 years.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend routine cord blood storage. The groups say private banks should only be used when there’s a sibling with a medical condition who could benefit from the stem cells. Families are encouraged to donate stem cells to a public bank to help others.
If you do decide to bank your baby’s cord blood, there’s one more thing to keep in mind: It’s best not to make it a last-minute decision. You should coordinate with the bank before your baby is born so nothing is left to chance.