Should You Bank Your Baby's Cord Blood?

What follows are some issues to consider:

  • Why is it done?
  • Are there guidelines to help us decide?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Could there be danger to our baby?

Q. I've heard about cord blood banking. It's a new concept to me. Why is it done?

A. One of medical science's recent advances is the use of cord blood stem cells in the treatment of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and some lymphomas. Further medical advances hold promise for the use of cord blood stem cells to eventually treat anemia, storage diseases and immune system diseases. Ultimately the use of stem cells may provide hope for other life-threatening genetic disorders, cancers and some rare diseases -- or even eventually offer hope for the repair of damaged nerve cells.

Your infant's cord blood stem cells can be collected and donated to a public cord blood bank for use in both research and transplantation or they may be cryopreserved and stored in a private cord blood bank for your own infant or, perhaps, other family members.

Q. Are there some guidelines that can help us decide if banking would be right for our family?

A. Stem cells are always a perfect match with the child from whose umbilical cord they were collected and provide a one in four match to siblings. While there are great potential benefits, the chances of your child ever needing to use his own cord blood sample is estimated at between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000. For this reason the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine cord blood banking for private storage unless a family member has a current or potential need of stem cell transplantation.

If matched bone marrow would be difficult to find because of your ethnic background -- Hispanic, African or mixed ethnicity -- your chances of someday needing to use stem cells increases somewhat, though not substantially.

The AAP reminds parents not to be swayed by emotional appeals regarding cord blood banking. Read the information provided by the private cord blood banks carefully. Any brochures and consent forms should make explicit the low potential for you personally ever needing to use the stem cells. And if you do decide to store your infant's cord blood stem cells in a private bank or donate them to a public bank, make arrangements to do so before you are in labor.

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