Cord blood banking is a common concern for expectant parents. Many people, from doctors to other parents, have likely recommended it – but with all the advice new parents receive, you’re likely wondering if cord blood banking is as beneficial as it sounds.
Cord blood banking is a fast, easy, and painless process, and it can be a great way to protect your baby and your family for the future. Yet because cord blood banking isn’t a standard part of the delivery process, many people are unaware of how it works. If you’re considering cord blood banking, here’s absolutely everything you need to know.
What Is Cord Blood?
When the umbilical cord is cut after a baby is born, blood remains in the placenta and in the piece of the umbilical cord that stays attached. This is known as cord blood. Although babies don’t need the cord blood after they’re born, it contains all the regular elements of blood along with one unique component: hematopoietic stem cells.
Most cells can only create copies of themselves. However, as the National Cancer Institute¹ writes, hematopoietic stem cells can morph into numerous types of blood cells. Doctors and scientists can use stem cells to produce different types of healthy cells in people with cancer, genetic diseases, and other conditions. And stem cells are one of the most fascinating breakthroughs in modern medicine – the National Health Institutes² states that stem cells can replace damaged tissue, repairing the body’s vital organs.
Cord blood is usually discarded after birth. Some people choose to bank their baby’s cord blood, though, so they can access the stem cells within it if their baby needs them later in life. A sibling or parent in need of stem cells could also use your baby’s cord blood.
Because the cells from your baby’s cord blood have your family’s genes, they can be a powerful treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions according to the National Cord Blood Program³, including:
- Immune deficiencies
- Platelet disorders
- Bone marrow failure syndromes
For some illnesses, stem cell therapy is the primary treatment. Stem cell therapy can work when traditional treatments have failed. Hopefully, your baby will never need their stem cells. However, cord blood banking can give you peace of mind. You’ll know you have stem cells available in case they do become necessary.
How Is Cord Blood Collected?
Cord blood collection is an easy, painless process that only takes a few minutes. Before your delivery, speak to your healthcare provider about your desire to bank the cord blood. The blood must be collected within 15 minutes of the delivery and processed within 48 hours according to the American Pregnancy Association⁴, so planning in advance is crucial. Your collection company will send you a kit with all the necessary supplies, which you should bring to the hospital for your delivery.
The two main ways cord blood is collected are:
- The syringe method: Your doctor uses a syringe to remove the blood from the cut umbilical cord.
- The bag method: Your doctor will elevate the umbilical cord and drain it into a bag.
After the blood is collected, it’s taken to a lab to be processed and stored. You should make sure the blood is kept in a facility accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks.
Are There Side Effects?
There are no risks or side effects associated with collecting cord blood. Your doctor will remove the blood from the umbilical cord after it is cut, so you and your baby won’t feel any pain or discomfort. If your family does need to use the cord blood, experts will thoroughly test the stem cells for genetic diseases and other issues before beginning a transplant.
The only disadvantage to collecting cord blood is that it can’t treat genetic conditions. Because it contains the same genetic information as your baby, it will have the same genetic diseases. In this case, your child may be able to use stem cells from a sibling or an unrelated donor, but they can’t use their own stem cells.
How Much Do Cord Blood Banks Cost?
The cost of cord blood banking varies from company to company. Collection and testing usually costs between $1,400 and $2,300, Parents.com reports⁵. You’ll also have to pay to keep the cord blood in storage, which is typically between $95 and $125 per year. The process can be expensive, but many parents believe the peace of mind is worth the cost.
Unfortunately, cord blood banking is rarely covered by health insurance. There are some financial aid programs that may help cover the cost if one of your children has certain medical conditions, though. If you want to bank your baby’s cord blood to use for their sibling’s medical treatment, you should see if there are any financial aid options in your area.
Choosing whether or not to bank your baby’s cord blood can be a difficult decision. Although your baby may never need the stem cells, it’s impossible to predict the future. Cord blood banking reassures you that your child has their stem cells available in case they do develop a medical condition.
If you have questions about cord blood banking, you should dig deeper with more research. It’s important to fully understand the process of cord blood banking before making a decision, so you don’t have to worry about it during or after your delivery. You also should do careful research on cord blood collection companies, so you know you’re working with a safe and trustworthy lab.
Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.