Although umbilical cord blood from a newborn baby can provide potentially life-saving stem cells, there is a lot to consider before deciding to privately bank your baby’s cord blood.This decision requires much thought on the part of the parents because of the high cost of collection and maintenance of storage, weighed against the possibility that the child or any family member may never even need the stem cells. Here are a few things to consider.
Cord blood collection is not a procedure routinely performed in hospitals. Parents who want to do cord blood banking should choose a plan and banking facility before the birth of their child. The collection kit will need to be ordered from the banking facility to do the collection after birth. Not only is there a cost for the blood collection kit which could run a few hundred dollars, there is also an estimated cost of $1,000-$2,000 for collection and storage. This does not include annual maintenance fees which cost around $100.
Aside from the several expenses involved, there is also the consideration that an average, healthy child at low risk will ever need the stem cells for any medical purpose in the future. People with a family history of medical diseases requiring treatment with bone marrow transplants would be the most likely candidates to consider private cord blood banking.
Keep in mind that the stem cells gathered from umbilical cord blood are limited in amount. The amount of stem cells that can be gathered from cord blood would be a sufficient amount to treat a child, or perhaps a young adult, but for larger people more stems cells would be needed. The cord blood stem cells would not be an adequate amount to treat most adults.
Experts are also concerned that an extremely ill baby treated with his/her own stem cells may be prone to repeat the illness. In cases where a sick child needs a bone marrow transplant, relatives are used as donors much of the time. At this time, there has been little experience with self donor stem cells.It is also unknown if stem cells from a relative or from a non-relative are more successful than the other. So far, both have proven successful in various cases. The positive part about this is that stem cells are what the medical world refers to as “naive.” This is a term for early cells that are still highly adaptable and less likely to be rejected by a person’s immune system.
Although the risks at the time of collection of cord blood are low, they do exist. If the cord is clamped too soon after birth this may increase the amount of blood collected ,at the same time causing the baby to lose blood volume leaving the possibly of the infant developing anemia.
Before deciding on a particular cord blood banking storage facility, do your homework. Make certain to find out relevant information before choosing. Research all cord blood banking facilities and find out what your options are if you choose to switch facilities, or if the facility falls into financial ruin. Ask about any and all annual fees and maintenance fees. Discuss your decision with your obstetrician as well.
Another option that may be available if you cannot afford private cord blood baking, is donation of the baby’s cord blood. You may donate to a non-profit facility, however you will not be able to retrieve it for your own personal use later, if needed. This donation would require written consent, is kept confidential and is of no cost to you. Your baby’s cord blood could be used for research purposes, or be used on a child who needs medical treatment. The upside is that you would still be helping someone, perhaps saving a life. The downside is that if your own family needed these stem cells, you will not have access to them.
This is just one more extremely important decision you will make as a parent, and a tough one indeed! I was never given the option for my sons ranging in ages from 23-15. But eight years ago with the birth of my daughter, I was offered the option. The concept of cord blood banking was still quite new where I lived, and not many people were choosing the option at that time. A lot has changed within the past eight years, and this concept is much more commonly discussed.
Many doctors and researchers consider cord blood stem cells to be a true promise for the future of medicine. Others feel that if a family does not have a history of certain medical conditions, using the private storage option as a means of “biological insurance” can be unwise.
Consult the American Red Cross or National Marrow Donor Programs for a list of facilities that will accept donated cord blood. Or, speak with your obstetrician if you are interested in donating your baby’s cord blood.