cross section of umbilical cord
Flickr photo by euthman

If you're pregnant, chances are you'll soon be getting a glossy brochure from your doctor's office or in the mail from a company offering to privately bank your child's umbilical cord blood once the baby is born. It will offer lots of statistics and, in touchy-feely language, explain that cord blood, which contains stem cells, might be the one thing that saves your child's life should he or she develop a dreadful life-threatening disease.

And chances are, you'll buy it hook, line, and sinker because, well, a few measly thousand dollars versus a child's life? That's just a no-brainer.

Put the brochure down and read this special report on private umbilical cord banking from ABC News first.

I didn't bank my children's cord blood because I always had a feeling these companies were promising more than they could really deliver. It felt more like good marketing than sound insurance. Here's why I was right ...

Cord blood, a rich source of stem cells, can be used as a treatment for diseases, such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine -- a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy, according to ABC News.

Is there a chance that private cord blood could save your child's life should he or she -- or even a sibling -- get leukemia? Of course. That's definitely something to consider. However, a recent investigation found that a child's own cord blood can't cure or treat a majority of the 70 or 80 diseases these companies often tout in trying to get parents to sign up, which often costs several thousands of dollars plus a hundred or so a year thereafter for storage.

One woman interviewed by ABC who banked her son's cord blood through a private firm learned her little boy had a genetic condition called osteopenia, a rare disease where the body makes excess bone that can lead to blindness and be fatal if untreated.

Osteopenia was included on the list of diseases cord blood was purported to treat. When the woman told the diagnosing doctor that all would be fine, she banked her son's cord blood at birth, the doctor looked at her and said, "Sorry, but we can't use it." The baby's cord blood stem cells carry the same disease, thus his own cord blood was useless to treat it.

Luckily, the boy's doctors found a match in a public bank, which the report explains is often a better option for parents because of the variety of blood and the fact that it's free.

The bottom line is, it's nice to think that evolving technologies will make cord blood a valuable insurance policy some time in the future, but right now that's just not the reality. So read up and weigh the risks before you send in that check.

Watch the video and read the full report here.

Are you planning to bank your baby's cord blood through a private bank? Why do you think it's a good idea?