1| What is cord blood, anyway?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after birth. It’s rich in stem cells that could help replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones.
2| Why is it such a big deal?
The hematopoietic stem cells found in umbilical cord blood generate every type of blood and immune cell. These cells are already being used to treat close to 80 diseases, including cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia and inherited metabolic disorders.
Umbilical cord tissue (which can be collected at the same time as umbilical cord blood) contains another type of stem cell called mesenchymal stem cells, which are currently being used in clinical trials investigating the treatment of heart disease, ulcerative colitis, stroke and diabetes.
3| Who can cord blood help?
Any family could potentially benefit from banked cord blood. Most commonly, cord blood is used in treatments for the siblings of a donor child. There’s about a 25 percent chance a brother or sister will be a match. It’s less likely a child could benefit from his own cord blood because most stem cell treatable conditions are genetic. Therefore, the cause of the disease would most likely be present in the collected stem cells, too.
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4| Doesn’t it seem like the odds of needing cord blood are pretty low?
If you have a family history of diseases that might benefit from cord blood, private banking is almost a no-brainer. If there’s even a small chance that one of your children might need that blood down the road, you’ll never regret having saved it.
If your family is made up of one or more ethnic minorities, you might want to put extra consideration into storing your child’s cord blood privately. Asian, Hispanic and African-American patients have a harder time finding a good match in the public cord blood supply.
5| What if my family doesn’t have any history of disease?
Keep in mind that many conditions that are treatable with stem cells won’t have any prior family history. They’re often fluke occurrences, and situations you certainly can’t plan ahead or prepare for. Based on current research, cord blood stem cells should remain viable forever if stored under proper conditions, so your family could theoretically use the cells decades from now.
6| There’s a lot of talk about cord blood’s potential—what research can attest to that?
There is tons of exciting research taking place right now around cord blood and cord tissue. Experts are exploring new possible treatments for using cord blood and cord tissue to treat cerebral palsy and brain injuries, autism spectrum disorder, juvenile diabetes and more.
7| When—and how—is cord blood collected?
Cord blood collection is painless, easy and safe for both mom and baby. The process happens after your little one is born and the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, so it shouldn’t affect your birthing preferences. Cord blood collection can take place after a vaginal or C-section birth, and collection can still be performed after delayed clamping.
8| What’s the difference between a public and private bank?
Most public banks are nonprofit organizations that accept cord blood donations (free of charge) that can then be accessed by the general public. Private banks allow families to bank their child’s cord blood in a private facility to then be used exclusively by the family should they need it in the future.
9| Let’s say we go with private storage. How do we decide on which bank to use?
There are many private banks, so it’s important for a family to choose carefully. Because the overall purpose of banking is to use the stem cells in a transplant, it is important to choose a bank that has done many transplants. Successful transplants indicate that the stem cells have been processed and cryopreserved (frozen) properly.
It is also important to choose a bank that is accredited by the regulatory agencies. Other than the FDA, the two main regulatory agencies in cord blood banking are AABB and FACT.
10| Let’s cut to the chase: How much does private storage cost?
Saving only the cord blood through a private bank usually costs between $1,500 and $2,000 as a one-time collection and processing fee. There is also an option to save the baby’s cord tissue, which contains different types of stem cells than cord blood. Saving cord tissue through a private bank is a one-time fee of about $1,000. Once the baby’s cord blood and/or tissue is saved with a private bank, there is an annual storage fee of about $100 to $200 per year.
11| It’s pretty pricey. Is it really worth the money?
Time and again, the strongest hesitation when it comes to cord blood banking is the cost. For some, the peace of mind the decision comes with is worth the investment. For others, public donation might be a better fit. If cord blood banking is important to you, many banks offer ways to help make the financial burden less cumbersome, including payment plans, family discounts and gift registries.
12| There’s a lot to think about. How late can we wait to make our decision?
Give yourself plenty of time to research your options and decide what is best for your family. Ideally, making a choice at least six weeks prior to the due date allows adequate time for paperwork and shipment of the kit. This also builds in a cushion of time in case your little one makes an unexpected early arrival.
Tip: Add it to your registry! Storing baby’s cord blood is a significant expense, but many private banks offer gift registry options. Simply sign up online for a donation web page, and invite friends and family to contribute to the cause.