I think you’ll agree that during pregnancy you’ll get a bit of information overload.
The subject of cord blood banking has put your brain into overdrive.
You’re considering it, but is it worth it?
It’s a subject which has a lot of info for you to have a good think about. A proper informed choice of all your options is the best way for you to make a decision.
This easy to follow guide is for you to explore all the options to help you pick the best route for your family. There is a lot to get through, so bookmark or pin this guide now to read later.
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What is cord blood banking?
Cord Blood Banking is a blood donation that you can collect from the umbilical cord at birth. Once collected the blood is then safely stored. This blood from your baby is known to be full of stem cells. Modern medicine can now use these stem cells to treat various diseases or improve recovery from intensive treatments.
Cord Blood Banking Process
Collecting the blood from the cord does not hurt your baby in any way. When your baby is born their cord will still be connected to your placenta. The cord is clamped and cut to separate baby. You can bank cord blood if you have a vaginal or a C-section birth. If you choose not to use a blood bank your placenta will be discarded after it delivers.
If you do opt to bank the cord blood the process starts straight away. A special collection kit is used to milk the cord of as much blood as possible. Around 1-5oz is usually collected from the cord. A blood sample will also be collected from you to screen the blood for any disease or viruses.
The cord blood is sent to a specialist blood bank laboratory. The blood is then screened and processed. The processing procedure involves removing all the red blood cells and plasma so you left with just the stem cells. What’s left of the sample is frozen for future use.
You can either opt for a public or private cord blood bank.
Public Cord Blood Banks
I like to think of this as a baby blood drive. Once the blood is received and processed it’s put into a national database for public use by any potential matches.
The great thing about public blood banks is that it’s free. With each donation, you are increasing the availability of stem cell therapy to really ill people who desperately need. Clinical trials and research use cord blood to improve future medical treatments. It’s a great feeling to know you’re doing your bit for others without having to do anything.
The downside of public banking its extremely unlikely you will get that blood back if you need it in the future. Either it will be used by some else, for research or possibly discarded if it doesn’t meet processing criteria.
It’s important to remember that even if you donate cord blood, you will be charged medical fees should you need a public donation in the future. The current cost is around $40,000 per unit of cord blood. You may want to check if your medical insurance covers these costs.
If you opt to go down this route, you need to let your caregiver know before the birth. They will give you more information on the process. Not all hospitals participate in public cord blood donation. Ask if they can arrange a company to come and take the donation.
Private Blood Banks
A private cord bank will take care of retrieving the cord blood and storing it for you. You’ll have full rights over the donation. It will also be available for you to use at any time your family needs it. You can even use the donation for any siblings or close family members. This makes private cord blood banking very appealing, almost like a health insurance for your kids.
Private cord blood banking is a great option for ethnic minorities or rare blood types. The reason is that you have the security of a known match. It can be difficult to find a match from public databases if you need a very specific match.
There are lots of private cord blood banking centers in the USA. You may even receive some marketing information during pregnancy. They will take care of the collection process and will be able to attend anywhere you choose to give birth.
This may give you a better idea of what is available in your area. The most established companies are:
The biggest downside is that private cord banking will make a big dent in your purse. The initial collection process will cost around $2000, plus anything from $100-$200 yearly fees for storage.
Cord Blood Uses
Docotors use stem cells from cord blood replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones. This can be done at any age.
The transplant process involves destroying the damaged blood cells first then replacing them with the stem cells.
Like building blocks, Stem cells are used to change into any cell your body needs them to. That means they can be used to build and repair any area of the body affected by a disease. The stem cells are immature and haven’t yet learned to reject foreign material. This makes them a better option for recovery as the body is less likely to react or reject the cells.
Stem cells often work best for diseases like cancer, where cells are destroyed by treatment.
Currently, cord blood can be used for treatment in over 80 diseases related to:
- Immune disease
- Metabolic disease
- Blood disorders
As a fairly modern technique, the full potential of what cord blood cells can treat is unknown. More clinical trials are developed everyday.
Current studies include treatment for:
- Cerebral palsy
- Heart defects
- Brain injury
Donor Stem cells
For some treatments, it’s best to use your own cells, especially if there is a risk of rejection by the body. However, some treatments are better to use donor stem cells. This includes diseases which are related to defects in DNA or blood. The problem with your own stem cells is that they will still contain these defects. Placing the stem cells into your body wouldn’t help to the problem. In this case, donor stem cells must be used for treatment.
Other Stem Cell Options
Cord blood banking is one of the easiest methods to get a lot of stem cells quickly and easily. However, Stem cells are not only found in cord blood. They can be gathered from other areas of the body. There are a few other options other than cord blood banking.
Stem cells are mad in tehis is a spongy material inside your bones. You can undergo a bone marrow transplant if needed. It’s physically very tough, including lots of investigations and a surgical procedure to donate the cells. The procedure itself is painless due to a pain block, but recovery may take around a month.
The current cost for bone marrow transplants in the USA are:
- Donor transplant – $800,000
- Own cell transplant – $350,000
- Children – $75,000 – $200,000
Cord tissue banking
This process is similar to cord blood banking but they store the actual cord tissue. Again, cord tissue produces stem cells for extraction. You can even combine banking both cord blood and cord tissue to give a full range of therapy use.
The research on this is further behind than cord blood therapy, so it’s still unknown the full extent of possible treatment.
The tissue can be used to generate actual tissue rather than just stem cells. This is promising for the treatment of degenerative diseases or trauma. The hope is it can be used for Parkinson’s disease, stroke, arthritis or bone and cartridge injuries.
Issues with Cord Blood Banking
Delayed cord clamping
Your baby remains attached to your placenta by their umbilical cord after they are born. Usually, this is clamped and cut as soon as they are born. Delayed cord clamping means this procedure isn’t performed until the cord stops pulsing. This allows more blood to flow from the placenta into babies system. Delayed cord clamping prevents baby anemia and can help with placenta delivery.
The dilemma is that the more blood baby gets, the less blood there is to donate for stem cells.
You may feel isn’t more important for your baby to receive as much cord blood as possible straight away. In that case, you are much more likely to get a small stem cell donation. This doesn’t mean you won’t get anything. It’s just more likely the volume is only suitable for a child treatment rather than an adult.
Clamp the cord sooner rather than later if you want to do both cord blood banking and delayed clamping. The optimum time to wait is 2 minutes. This way your baby gets more blood without it starting to clot and prevent a donation.
Sometimes the placenta does not deliver after birth. If there is little bleeding medical staff may wait a few hours before removing the placenta. In this situation, it is unlikely you will get any blood from the cord to donate. It may be possible to cut a piece of cord and take the donation, but the sample is likely to be very small.
You may even want to consider cord tissue donation instead.
Physiological Third Stage
The third stage is the time from when your baby is born to when the placenta delivers. Most women opt to have in injection to speed up the placenta delivery, with the caregiver assisting the placenta out. Another method is to let the placenta deliver without any interfering, known as a physiological third stage.
This is the same debate as delayed cord clamping, but what happens when you wait longer. Again it’s not impossible to get a sample, just a little trickier to get a large donation.
Some collection companies may be able to use anti-clotting drugs and special techniques to still get a good sample. It’s best to discuss your preferences with any cord blood bank to know if their company can do this.
Twins or Multiples
Public cord banks are usually unwilling to accept donations from twins. Private cord banks will take a twin or multiple donations without issue. Although the cost will be higher, companies usually give a discount from the cost of doubling a single donation.
Is Cord blood banking worth it?
To sum up this guide, we’ll go over what you need to consider before you decide
The upfront fees of private cord blood banking make it out of reach for a lot of families. The total cost over 18 years totals to around $6000. Although public cord blood banking is free to donate, it cost around $40,000 to receive a unit for treatment.
If your family has a strong genetic history of a certain disease or your baby was born with complication, you may want to consider using a private bank. If your family is generally healthy and your baby born well, the chances you’ll need to use stem cells are very slim. In fact, don’t let private company’s guilt trip you into a sale. They may try to make you fear that you are putting your baby at risk or not looking out for their health.
To put in into perspective the current need for stem cell therapy is:
- Age 0-21: 1 in 2,700
- Age 0-70: 1 in 217
This simply means that as people age they are more likely to need treatment for various diseases. Stem cell therapy is not the first port of call. You can use stem cell therapy when other treatments have not worked.
Cord blood banking is ideal for rare blood types as it guarantees a quick match. Donor stem cells donation for rare blood types can rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills to find a suitable match. Ultimately it will save a lot of money from various testing procedures to find a suitable donor.
You who will benefit most from private cord blood banking if you
- Can easily fund the cost
- Have a family history of certain disease
- Have rare blood types
- Know baby will be born with a certain condition
- Need the reassurance of ‘health insurance’
- Want more children
How to Arrange Cord Blood Banking
It’s best to start arranging a cord blood donation at the beginning of your third trimester. First, you should decide whether a public or private donation is best for your family. To get the ball rolling
Public Donations – Contact cord blood banks in your area, you can find a list of participating hospitals here.
Private Donations – Contact the blood bank company you wish to use they will give you exact details of their process and pricing.
There will be a few bits of paperwork and consent form to fill out before the birth. Do this as soon as possible just in case your baby makes an early appearance.
Let your nurse know you are donating cord blood when you are in labor. Your nurse can prepare for a collection after delivery, and arrange for collection from the cord blood bank.
After birth, the collection procedure will begin.