Cord Blood Banking: Breaking Down the Details

From car seats and strollers to hospitals and birth plans, there is no shortage of things to research when you are pregnant. There is a dizzying array of options and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all, especially when you pair the stress of sorting out so many options with all of those lovely pregnancy hormones.

As you are educating yourself on the benefits of breastfeeding and deciding whether or not to have an unmedicated birth, you’ve likely come across one of the latest hot topics in the birth industry: cord blood banking.

Here’s what you need to know to help you decide if you want to bank your baby’s cord blood:

Why You Might Consider Cord Blood Banking

The blood in a baby’s umbilical cord is rich with stem cells. As the building blocks of the immune system and blood, stem cells have a unique ability to help repair organs, blood vessels and tissue, making them an ideal way to treat many serious diseases and other health conditions. Stem cells are currently used to treat more than 80 diseases, including various types of lymphoma and leukemia, various bone marrow failure syndromes, sickle cell anemia, and an array of metabolic syndromes, immunodeficiencies and blood disorders.

Stem cell treatment with cord blood is also found to have better outcomes than those using adult stem cells, which have a higher rejection rate. Stem cells from cord blood also have a minimal risk for carrying any infectious diseases.

How It Works

After a baby is born, the umbilical cord is typically disposed of, leaving the precious contents of the umbilical cord to go to waste.

Cord blood banking minimizes that waste; instead, the process requires a minimum of 60 milliliters of blood to be extracted from the umbilical cord after delivery. After birth, the cord is clamped in two places, and then a needle is inserted into the umbilical cord to draw the blood. This stem-cell-rich blood is then sent to a lab where it is tested and stored. The entire collection process takes just a few minutes and is painless for both baby and mother.

Things to Consider When choosing a private cord blood bank, key things to consider are initial cost, ongoing storage fees, accreditation, and the amount of stem cells that can be collected. The initial cost of cord blood banking can vary significantly depending on the bank, so be sure that you are clear on what the official fees include so that you can compare everything clearly. Ongoing storage fees are usually around $100 per year, but there are some cord blood banks that roll the storage fees into the initial cost, which can actually save you some money.

Make sure you are clear on how long your child’s cord blood can be stored, as this duration can vary between the different cord blood banks. To ensure that the specimens are properly handled and stored, be sure that the lab is accredited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as AABB, which is a non-profit that develops industry standards and regulations for blood banks.

The required amount of cord blood is also an important consideration, as the more cord blood a bank requires, the longer you will usually be able to use it to treat your child. Many stem cell treatments require a certain amount of stem cells depending on the weight of the person. For instance, many cord blood banks only require enough blood to treat a child who weighs less than 65 pounds, limiting the lifetime of your investment.

Is There Any Downside to Banking Cord Blood?

While the benefits of banking cord blood are indisputable, many people who choose to do it will never actually use their banked cord blood, which some people may see as wasted money. But think of it as an insurance policy; you hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be happy it’s there.

Another potential issue is that cord blood banking could interfere with the process of delayed cord clamping, which is recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). ACOG advises doctors to delay clamping the umbilical cord for between 30 to 60 seconds after delivery to allow the baby to get as much blood volume from the placenta as possible, as this helps babies to transition to breathing on their own and can even help prevent anemia. By the time clamping has been delayed, there may not be enough blood volume left in the cord to get an adequate amount for cord blood banking. Talk to your care provider in advance about this to find out your options delayed clamping while still banking cord blood.

It’s a Worthwhile Investment

When it comes down to it, it is 100 percent worth investing in saving stem cells that have the potential to save your child’s life, no matter what the cost. Private cord blood banks can differ a lot, so be sure to do you research so that you are clear on what you get from each option so that you can make an informed decision.

Thanks to Lauren

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