When a child is born, their umbilical cord is filled with nutrient-rich blood. There are stem cells contained in that blood, along with numerous other potentially beneficial items. It can be used for research purposes, including helping the newborn receive needed treatments should they encounter certain serious diseases in their young life. Banking that cord blood immediately can be the ticket to a bright future for some children.
The key benefit of cord blood banking involves those stem cells. Those cells can turn themselves into numerous other cells that can help older children (or even adults) receive a level of protection from a disease, such as leukemia, that attacks the immune or circulatory system. Even certain metabolic disorders can be treated thanks to stem cells saved through cord blood banking.
The primary disadvantage of cord blood banking is that it isn’t a cheap procedure and many families may not be able to afford it. The initial cost of saving your cord blood for personal use can be upwards of $2,500. There are annual storage fees, sometimes as high as $200, that must be paid as well. It is free, however, to donate blood to a public cord blood bank.
Here are some additional cord blood banking pros and cons to think about.
More Cord Blood Banking Pros
1. Your cord blood is always accessible.
If you pay a private bank to store your cord blood, then it will always be available to you. No one can access the cord blood unless you authorize it. It will be reserved for your family and no one else. It cannot be donated for research purposes if your account remains in good standing. There may not be a guarantee that you’ll ever use it, but at least you’ll have it should there be a need to use it in the future.
2. The full potential of cord blood banking may not be known yet.
Cord blood use is one of the most exciting areas of research in medical science today. Researchers are studying treatments for cerebral palsy by using the cord blood obtained at birth. Autism treatments using cord blood are underway as well, along with other potentially fatal disorders and diseases. The potential of what cord blood could provide for future medical needs has a lot of upside and not much downside.
3. Cord blood therapies have become more successful.
Cord blood transplants have become much more successful since the early 2000s. Clinicians have learned how to match people better to stored cord blood. Dosing for cord blood has become more reliable. Better care for patients going through a cord blood transplant has been improved. All of those benefits become even better if the patient is able to use their own cord blood that has been properly stored.
4. Cord blood is the easiest to match to others.
There are several resources available for collection that benefit transplant patients, including bone marrow. Umbilical cord blood is the easiest to collect because it is a painless procedure that must be completed anyway to disconnect a newborn from the mother. Cord blood is also easier to match with others, even compared to blood that is recovered from the placenta, which makes it a highly effective treatment option.
5. Cord blood can also go to direct donation banks.
A third option, sometimes not known about, is available for cord blood banking as well. A direct donation bank is a combination of private and public banks. These banks will store blood for public use, but accept donations that can be reserved for families or specific individuals. Some do not charge a fee for this service, while others may offer a reduced fee compared to banks that are completely private.
6. Cord blood banking can be used to help siblings.
Because of the genetic similarities of siblings, cord blood from one child can be used to treat certain medical conditions from which another child may be suffering. Banking cord blood privately in such a circumstance is highly recommended if the parents can afford the collection and storage costs because it could be useful in finding a cure for the other family member.
7. There may be financial aid options available.
For families that may not be able to afford private cord blood banking, there are some financial aid options that are available. Certain charitable organizations work with the more than 25 certified private blood banks to subsidize the initial collection cost, shipping costs, and storage fees that are necessary. Although some families may still not be able to afford private banking, even with financial aid, there are opportunities for more families to store cord blood now more than ever before.
8. Many private banks provide free storage options.
Several private cord blood banks offer families up to 1 year of free storage. This option can be especially useful for families where a sibling or parent may need to utilize the cord blood for a treatment in the near future. Many organizations will also partner with you to raise the funds that you may need to cover these expenses, including help with crowdfunding in certain situations.
More Cord Blood Banking Cons
1. Children may never need their cord blood.
Cord blood is rich in stem cells, so it can be used to treat a wide range of diseases that may affect a child. The odds that any given child will need their cord blood, however, is only about 1 in 217. For families that do not have a history of sickle cell anemia, lymphoma, or leukemia, the costs of collecting and storing the blood may not make sense and public bank storage may be a better option.
2. Cord blood is not a miracle cure for everything.
The stem cells in cord blood can provide numerous benefits, but they are not a magical cure for everything that may happen to a child. Certain genetic conditions, such as MD or spina bifida, cannot be treated through a child’s cord blood because the stem cells would be affected by the same condition. Other cord blood options may be available, but it is important to note that the presence of it is not a guarantee of future wellness.
3. Private banks throw away unfunded cord blood.
Families must pay the annual storage fees to maintain their cord blood at a private bank. If those fees are not paid, then the cord blood will simply be disposed of or donated to a public bank. That is why public cord blood banks can be a better option, especially for households with lower income levels, because there is a greater chance that the stored blood will be able to successfully treat someone in the future.
4. There are limits to the length of storage.
Current research suggests that cord blood can be stored for a maximum of 15 years. New technologies in this field may extend that timeframe in the future, but how that would affect current samples stored is unknown. Because of these limits, several organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend against routine cord blood storage and suggest public banking instead.
5. It cannot be a last-minute decision.
Deciding on banking cord blood, either publicly or privately, is not a decision that should be made in the spur of the moment. What you decide to do with the cord blood should be part of the overall birthing plan. Let your doctor know what your preference happens to be. Coordinate with the cord blood bank so that there is less of a risk for a mistake to occur.
6. Even a direct cord blood match is not a treatment guarantee.
As with any medical procedure, there is never a 100% guarantee that banked cord blood, even if it comes from the patient being treated, will provide a successful outcome. Families can go through the entire cost of banking cord blood, including the massive first-year fee, only to find that the treatment didn’t work as intended. It is not an investment. It is more of an insurance policy.
Cord Blood Banking: Should You? Or Shouldn’t You?
The potential of cord blood banking is enormous, but so are the costs of private banking. The pros and cons of cord blood banking suggest that public banking can be a beneficial choice for many families. Other choices are available as well, including a delay in the cutting of the umbilical cord, so each family must decide which option will be right for them.
Even then, cord blood banking offers zero guarantees. Many families have experienced successful outcomes, but there are families who have not.
If you’re unsure about what you’d like to do, then speak with your doctor about your family’s medical history. Ask if there is a risk to your child that could be minimized with cord blood banking. In doing so, you’ll be able to find the decision which works the best for you.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.