What is Cord Blood and Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood is blood from the baby that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. It contains cells called hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells. Stem cells can be used to treat some diseases — including disorders of the blood, immune system and metabolism — and offset the effects of cancer treatment on the immune system. Other uses are being studied. It’s now possible to collect some of this cord blood after birth and store it in case your baby or a family member needs it in the future. Before you make a decision about banking your baby’s cord blood, it’s important to get all of the facts.
Currently, only a few diseases can be treated with the stem cells from cord blood. The chance that cord blood stem cells will be needed to treat your child or a relative is very low — about 1 in 2,700. However, research is being done to find new uses.
There are limitations to how your baby’s stem cells can be used. If a baby is born with a genetic disease, the stem cells from the cord blood cannot be used for treatment because they will have the same genes that caused the disorder.
Private vs. Public Cord Blood Banking
Cord blood is kept in one of two types of banks: public or private. Public cord blood banks operate like blood banks. Cord blood is collected for use by anyone who needs it. The stem cells in the donated cord blood can be used by any person who matches. There is no fee for storing cord blood in a public bank. A limited number of hospitals participate in the public cord blood banking option. To find out more about public banks, check out the National Marrow Donor Program.
The other storage choice is a private bank, which charges an annual fee. Private banks store cord blood for “directed donation.” The blood is stored for use by only your baby or relatives.
Which Private Cord Blood Company Do I Choose?
If you decide to donate or store cord blood, you will need to choose a cord blood bank. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a bank:
- What will happen to the cord blood if a private bank goes out of business?
- Can you afford the yearly fee for a private bank?
- What are your options if results of the screening tests show you cannot donate to a public bank?
There are many cord blood companies on the market. Below are four companies that Golden Gate is aware of:
To learn more about each cord blood company, please click on their link. You may also visit Consumer Affairs.
I’ve Decided to Store Cord Blood, What Next?
You must let your health care provider know far in advance of your due date (preferably two months) if you want to collect and store your baby’s cord blood. If you have chosen a private bank, you will need to arrange for the collection equipment to be sent to your health care provider. Health care providers usually charge a fee for collecting cord blood. This fee is not usually covered by insurance. Many cord blood companies pay doctors an additional amount for the collection as well.
Keep in mind that even if you have planned to donate or store cord blood, it may not be possible to collect the blood after delivery. For example, if the baby is born prematurely, there may not be enough cord blood for this purpose. If you have an infection, the cord blood may not be usable.