Everything You Need to Know About Banking Your Baby's Cord Blood

umbilical cordCord blood is one of those things you probably hear or know nothing about until you get pregnant. Then, you hear about it all the time, likely seeing posters hanging up in your doctor's office and hospital, advertising the benefits. But do you really know what it is, or what the pros and cons are?

Here are 6 things you should know about cord blood banking before you decide whether or not it's right for your family.


1. What is cord blood? Cord Blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and the placenta after you give birth to a baby. Up until recently, this cord blood was discarded as medical waste.

2. Why are people banking cord blood? The reason people aren't so quick to discard their baby's cord blood anymore is because stem cells contained in cord blood have been used to treat more than 80 diseases, including certain cancers and blood disorders. Today, they're also being used in many clinical trials as potential treatment for neurological injuries and conditions, such as cerebral palsy and autism. "Cord blood is a proven, effective source of blood-forming stem cells for people with certain diseases," Stephen Feig, professor of pediatrics at UCLA said. Cord blood isn't always a sure-fire treatment, but if certain diseases that could benefit from cord blood run in your family, it's probably not a bad idea to bank it.

3. How is the cord blood collected? After you give birth, the cord is clamped, wiped with antiseptic and a needle is inserted into one of the veins in the umbilical cord to withdraw a few ounces of blood. It takes, literally, minutes. One collection method (the more common method) is to hang a blood bag below the mother and let gravity do the work. Another way is to actively draw the blood out, like when you're having blood drawn for a medical test. 

4. Where is cord blood stored? You can either store cord blood at a public or private bank. At a public bank, donations are not stored for a particular person. Instead, the blood is available to anyone needing a cord blood transplant, or it may be sold for medical research. At a private bank, the cord blood is exclusive to you. The bank will collect, process, freeze, and store your baby's umbilical cord blood for you and you only.

5. What are the odds of my child needing the cord blood? The answers to this vary widely. According to most experts, the odds that a child will ever use his or her own stored cord blood are small. A 2005 study claimed that the chances are about one in 2,700. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests it's more like 1 in 200,000. One cord blood bank claims the odds are 1 in 217.

6. How much does cord blood banking cost? Private cord blood banks charge a first-time processing fee that ranges anywhere from $1,400 to $2,300, plus annual storage fees of around $115 to $150. Public cord blood banks claim that the initial collection, processing, and storage cost them about $2,000 per unit of cord blood. You can donate to a public cord blood bank for free.

Did you bank your baby's cord blood?


Image via RUTH JENKINSON/Science Photo Library/Corbis

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