Cord blood banking refers to the storage of a newborn’s umbilical cord blood cells. Parents can store their baby’s cord blood for long periods of time, and these cells can be used for treatments in the future. Since the cord blood cells are kept in controlled containers, they are viable for decades and remain active and healthy after years of storage. The oldest known cord blood unit has been in storage for several decades – the cells show no signs of aging and are still potent enough for a successful transplant.
Cord blood can be used in treating nearly 80 diseases, including a wide range of cancers, genetic diseases, and blood disorders. With a cord blood transplant, the stem cells are infused into the patient’s bloodstream where they are used to treat certain medical conditions.
When cord blood is collected, the newborn is in no danger since the umbilical cord is clamped and removed during a normal birthing procedure. Normally, the umbilical cord and umbilical cord blood are considered medical waste and are discarded. When parents are storing for future personal use or donating their child’s cord blood, the doctor collects any remaining umbilical cord blood after delivery of the baby. This can be done after a normal delivery or during a cesarean section. The medical staff will label the package with the cord blood as instructed and then ship it to a storage facility where it is cryogenically frozen.
When parents make the decision to bank their baby’s cord blood, they have to choose between two main banking options:
Private banks, or family banks, store cord blood for the child’s family – only the parents and child will have access to the cord blood cells and have control over how it is used. If a close relative, like a sibling or cousin, needs a transplant, the family may choose to use their privately stored cells for treatment.
Public banks are available for cord blood donations and will use stem cells from the cord blood for research and future treatments. The only downside to public banking is the risk that if you donate your child’s cord blood, he/she may not have access to their cord blood cells in the future, since any patient in need of donated cord blood cells can receive them for a transplant.
Over the past two decades, cord blood has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of over 80 diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and anemia. Private banking can help your family if a family member develops one of these serious conditions, while a public donation can help researchers find new treatments or aid a another family with little or no medical options.
Regardless of your banking choice, cord blood cells are too valuable to be discarded. With over 1 million umbilical cord blood units in private storage and continued support from the medical community and government, many researchers believe cord blood cells will become a standard treatment for many medical diseases within the next decade. Dozens of clinical trials are currently testing future treatment possibilities utilizing cord blood, and there are more reasons to bank your baby’s cord blood cells now more than ever before.
Regardless of whether you choose to donate your child’s cord blood to a public bank or store it at a private facility, these procedures can be expensive. Even donations, which are free for eligible mothers, cost public banks thousands of dollars for collection, transportation and storage.
Here are two important things to remember about cord blood banking costs:
Public banking is free, but using the umbilical cord blood cells in a transplant costs money. Since this is a medical procedure, it’s usually covered by health insurance. However, cord blood stored in a public bank is available to everyone, so there’s no guarantee the donating family will be able to use the cord blood cells they donated. Private cord blood banking costs money upfront and additional payments are due every year for storage. While this is more expensive, only your family has access to the cords blood cells, so you can always use them for medical treatments in the future if necessary.
The average cost for private cord blood banking is around $2,000 for the first year. The kit is included in the fee and it can either be sent directly to you or to your doctor/facility where you will be delivering your baby. For most banks, storage fees are charged every year cord blood is kept at the labs – this is usually $125-150 annually.
For more information on cord blood costs and storage procedures click here.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
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