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What Is Cord Blood Banking? And Why Is It Potentially Life-Saving for My Child?

What Is Cord Blood Banking? And Why Is It Potentially Life-Saving for My Child?

The idea of banking cord blood has been discussed in recent years, and it has not been without controversy. Rich in stem cells, cord blood can be used in place of bone marrow to treat many diseases. These include potentially life-threatening cancers like lymphoma and leukemia, and some immune disorders. The banking of cord blood has also been the subject of discussion for the ways that it can be used. But with all the uncertainties in raising a child, having some protection against future illness can be priceless.

Why Should You Save Your Child’s Cord Blood?

Cord blood is taken from the umbilical cord after a mother gives birth to a baby.

Before cord blood was analyzed for its hidden properties, people would just discard umbilical cords or save them as keepsakes of the day their baby was born. These days, however, cord blood is now used for research or for possible use in stem cell transplants.

Cord blood is being studied to treat between 70-80 diseases, such as some cancers, blood disorders, and inherited disorders of the immune system. These include lymphoma, leukemia, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, neuroblastoma, and retinoblastoma. With rapid advances in medical research, cord blood may also be the answer to future treatments for other diseases.

Collecting cord blood poses few risks. And if a baby’s cord blood isn’t collected for future use or for research, it is just discarded as has been the practice for centuries. For those considering cord blood banking, you might want to consider the differences between using a public and private facility.

Public vs Private Cord Blood Banking

There are a number of significant differences between public and private cord blood banking facilities.

Public Cord Blood Banking Facility

This is the option one chooses when your baby’s cord blood is made available for research or public use. Here, cord blood can be collected at any facility where health care providers are trained to recover cord blood. Cord blood from unrelated donors can be used to treat conditions such as leukemia.

While public facilities don’t charge to store cord blood, there might be a hospital fee for collection. The blood donation is then shipped to a cord blood bank. Cord blood banked in a public program will not likely be saved and made available for future private use.

Private Cord Blood Banking Facility

For those who are thinking of preserving their baby’s cord blood for possible personal use in the future, this is the option to pick.

The cost can be considerable, including a collection fee and ongoing maintenance fees — yet the chance that your child will ever use the banked cord blood is remote. Another caveat is that should your child need a stem cell transplant, there is no guarantee that the banked cord blood will remain viable or be suitable for a transplant.

In a bit of a surprise, there has been a significant decline in the demand for cord blood in recent years. This trend has led to cord blood banks exploring complementary uses of cord blood in order to exploit the full potential of this unique, valuable, and readily available product.

cord blood

Collection and Storage

If you so choose, health care providers can collect cord blood at the time of your baby’s delivery. The simple, painless process sees the umbilical cord being clamped once the baby is born. Blood is drained from the cord with a needle and bag attached. After the bag is sealed, the placenta is delivered. The process takes about 10 minutes.

For private cord blood banks, cord blood is stored for a fee. It is then available for potential future use by the same child if a disease develops later in life. A family member can also use the cord blood.

Private cord blood banks are not covered by insurance, and it is still unknown how long cord blood can be successfully stored.

On the other hand, public cord blood banks operate more like typical blood banks. Cord blood is collected for later use for anyone who needs it. The stem cells in the donated cord blood can be used by any person who matches.

Key Takeaway

“If you are considering cord blood banking, consult your health care provider. He or she can help guide you to make an informed decision,” says Dr. Seanna Thompson, Mayo Clinic Health System OB/GYN physician.

Cast aside or barely noticed for centuries, cord blood from the umbilical cords of babies is now viewed in a whole new light for their healing properties. Even as new research continues to be conducted about cord blood, the options of public and private cord blood banking need to be weighed by families to decide if cord blood banking should be a part of their future.

Learn more about Baby’s First Year here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is cord blood banking – and is it better to use a public or private facility? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/expert-answers/cord-blood-banking/faq-20058321, Accessed December 14, 2021

Preparation and growth factor characterization of cord blood-derived plasma, serum, growth factor-rich plasma and induced serum, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34763157/, Accessed December 14, 2021

Umbilical cord blood banking: an update, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10815-011-9577-x,  Accessed December 14, 2021

Clinical Practice of Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells in Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine – Prodigious Promise for Imminent Times,

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34702158/, Accessed December 14, 2021

Cord blood banking for future transplantation, https://europepmc.org/article/med/17200285, Accessed December 14, 2021

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Written by Jason Inocencio Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD