Expectant parents have countless important decisions to make, some of them well before their baby is even born. Whether or not to use cord blood banking for your infant is one of those decisions that can’t be put off until the day of the birth. With all the information out there, it’s important to really examine the pros and cons of cord blood banking to determine if it is the right choice for your family.
Benefits of Cord Blood Banking
Storing your baby’s cord blood in a private facility ensures that it will be there if you or your family ever need it. There is no searching and waiting for donors; the cells are simply available for transplant. For your baby, the cells are a guaranteed 100% match, and for siblings the chance of a match it high. The real question is, how likely is your family to need those cells?
If your unborn child has a sibling with an illness that can be treated with cord blood stem cells, this is a very easy choice. Many facilities offer discounted or even free cord blood collection and storage if a family member already needs it. However, for the majority of families, this is not the case. Family history of illnesses that can be treated with cord blood may also be an indicator for collection and storage.
For people who don’t have any family history, the odds of needing a transplant using stem cells from cord blood is around 1 in 217, low enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not currently recommend cord blood banking for families with no previous history. However, there are continuous advances in the uses of stem cells in medical practice, and the ultimate choice is always up to the family.
It is worth noting that stem cells collected from a family member’s cord blood are twice as likely to result in a successful transplant as those from a public bank. It can also be more difficult for minorities to find a match in public cord blood banks, since they are not as well represented in these facilities, which may play a role in deciding whether or not to use a private bank for your child.
Potential Treatments With Cord Blood
For a family to decide whether to store cord blood, it is important to know what it can do. To date cord blood has been used in the treatment of multiple types of anemia, including sickle cell, several cancers, including leukemia, Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, failure of bone marrow, metabolic disorders such as Tay-Sachs Disease and Hunter Syndrome, osteoporosis, and a number of different immunodeficiencies. If your family has a history of any of these diseases, talk to your doctor about the options with cord blood storage.
The developing research on alternative uses of cord blood is exciting. One of the most notable treatments in the testing phase is for cerebral palsy and brain injury due to accident or lack of oxygen at Duke University. The hope is that the stem cells will help repair the damage to the brain and early human trials are promising. The University of Florida is conducting experiments investigating the use of cord blood in treating Type I Diabetes. Animal studies have been promising regarding the use of cord blood stem cells in repairing the cardiovascular system, especially after it has been weakened by a heart attack. Regenerative medicine is a promising field, but at this point it is impossible to predict where it will advance. It is up to the family to determine if the potential is enough to warrant storing their child’s cord blood.
The Cons of Cord Blood Banking
One of the most obvious cons of cord blood banking is the cost. A private cord blood bank may charge anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,000 for collection, and yearly storage fees are usually around $100. This is a significant investment for a family that might be better spent elsewhere if they are at low risk.
Another consideration for private banking is that your child might not be able to use his or her own cells. Some of the diseases treatable by cord blood are genetic, meaning the disease is present in the blood as well. If a sibling develops a genetic disease, the cells can be used for transplant if the donor doesn’t have the illness.
While theories suggest that these stem cells can be stored indefinitely, there is only evidence of cord blood being used successfully after a little over a decade of storage. It is too early in the field to be completely certain how long these cells can be usefully stored.
There are others who may need it more. Many parents don’t know that public cord blood banking is an option. This is a donation of your baby’s cord blood to a public facility that will link the cells to a person waiting for a transplant. While your baby and family’s chances of needing the stored cord blood are relatively low, there are many families out there who are waiting for a match for a disease their child has right now. Donating cord blood is generally completely free and will go to someone who is already in need.
Should I Bank Cord Blood
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to banking your child’s cord blood. The financial investment is high and the chances of needing it are low, but if you happen to be that family that needs it, it may be well worth the investment. This is a family decision that should be made considering all the facts. If you do decide private banking is not for you, consider public banking, since your donation of what would otherwise be medical waste could save the life of someone else’s little boy or girl.