She Says… Cord Blood Banking

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I have been bombarded with information about cord blood banking. It’s hard to ignore — the tv commercials, web ads, email marketing campaigns and magazine ads are everywhere. Or maybe I just feel that way because ever since I heard of the concept, I’ve been debating this decision. The biggest challenge? Sorting through the fear-based marketing campaigns to find real facts.

After reading some of the statistics on the private banking centers’ websites (like ViaCord or the Cord Blood Registry) or seeing some of the commercials where parents talk about how cord blood saved their child’s life, my first instinct was, “Yes! Of course I would spend a few thousand dollars to insure that my child could be cured if he/she developed some sort of life-threatening disease. That’s a small price to pay for my baby’s health.” At my last doctor’s appointment I asked my OB what her thoughts were on cord blood banking. I was expecting to hear her say that this new technology could save lots of lives if people invested in it, and that it was a huge step forward in medical treatment of many childhood diseases (ahem, much like the cord blood banking companies tout). However, her very blunt response was, “Ehh, it’s a lot of money for something you’ll probably never need. Barely any of my patients do it. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the cost and I haven’t seen many children treated with cord blood.” Hmmm. Then I asked my sister, who is a mom of 2 and a doctor herself. She was much less blunt in her answer (as she didn’t want to deter me from making the investment if someday I did need the cord blood and then I might wish she had given me different advice), but the bottom line was the same. She hasn’t seen cord blood used as a first course of treatment for the conditions that private cord blood banks lead you to believe it will be used for, and the chances of an individual needing and/or being able to use their own banked cord blood are very low.

One big question that parents need to answer if they are going to bank cord blood is: Public or private? At a private center, your cord blood is stored only for you and your family. You pay about $2,000 for the cord blood extraction at your baby’s birth (it’s quick and painless from what I’ve read — taken from the umbilical cord and/or placenta, not from the baby directly), and then about $100 a year to store it. The cord blood is “good” for about 10 years, so I estimate the total cost of private banking to be about $3,000. With public cord blood banking, you pay nothing, and your baby’s cord blood is collected and donated to a public supply, much like bone marrow or blood. Public banking does not give you the insurance policy that private banking does, since once your cord blood is donated, you cannot get it back for personal use. However, it can save the lives of those who need it.

Originally, as I said, I thought that private banking was the way to go for my baby’s health. However, the more I think about it, and the more conversations I have about it, I am beginning to see the value of donating to a public bank. Why wouldn’t you donate to a public bank? One baby’s cord blood could save many lives, and there’s no downside that I can see to donating. Also, the chance of my baby’s cord blood going to waste in a private bank is higher than it actually being used by me or my family… whereas if you donate to a public bank, the cord blood is available for anyone who needs it to use.

My mind is made up. I’m going to donate my baby’s cord blood to the public bank in an effort to save lives. And if someday my baby needs cord blood to treat an illness or disease, I’ll hope that others have done the same, so that the bank has a match for my little one. If everyone donated their babies’ cord blood, finding a match for those who need it would be easy.

So, what do you think about cord blood banking? Did you/will you do it? Public or private? Why or why not?

26 responses to “She Says… Cord Blood Banking

  1. I seriously could have written this post word.for.word. I felt all the same sort of pressures to pay the money for private banking more out of “fear” and not wanting to regret not having done it. And in Canada, I think we have more fees associated with monthly insurance on top of that. I have made the same decision based on exactly everything you have written and one more very important surprising fact that I learned that was the deal breaker. All of the information I have heard about it emphasized (or at least it appeared to emphasize to me) the idea that you had a better chance at curing leukemia for your child with the cord blood (from YOUR child) which to me, is what would be worth the hit on the cost up front because if that situation ever happened, you know you would be willing to pay the amount on the spot. BUT apparently your own baby’s cord blood is not a treatment or cure for any diseases like leukemia (and many others) that are derived from any genetic base because your own baby’s cord blood contains the same “problem” that has created the disease (for lack of a more clinical way of putting it). So as I understand it, privately banking your baby’s cord blood will not be of use to you in those situations and only a matching donor from a public bank would be.

    All the more reason to donate to the public bank, in my opinion! There is nothing to lose by doing that. You can #1 possibly help save another child’s life and #2 take the same advantage of finding a suitable donor if your child ends up in the same situation and #3 it’s free.

    Yes the chances of matching aren’t as “great” as if it came straight from your baby, but what use is your baby’s cord blood for a genetic disease?

    I still have more research to do about public banks in Canada, because most of the campaigns I see are American, but if the option to donate to a public bank is available, of course we would.

    Great Post!!

  2. I would like to donate it when our baby is born in September. I’m a big advocate for blood donation in the first place, so for me, it’s an extension of that. And like you say, why WOULDN’T you donate it?

  3. I’d like to go with public banking– I’ve been researching this too and I’m disappointed to say that I’m having trouble finding a bank in my area that will take this donation. I don’t believe my hospital has a program to collect it properly– will ask my doc next week at my appt!

  4. Kate, I came to the same conclusion about public vs private. The private companies turned me off with their aggressive tactics — I entered what was advertised as a free sweepstakes on one of their sites and ever since then I receive endless calls on my cell, about once a week, by aggressive marketeres despite the fact that I never authorized them to call me. Blech, does not give me a good feeling.

    When I researched public, it definitely seemed the way to go and like everyone else, since it’s of no cost or harm to you or baby, why NOT?

  5. I also came to the same conclusion and have now donated cord blood twice out of my three kids. I’m a doctor and one of my friends is a pediatric transplant specialist who advised me that private banking is a rip off–often insufficient samples are collected but they continue to charge you for storage without testing for the quantity, most conditions treated are better with non-self stem cells, etc. I was thrilled to donate and the only downside I could find was the presence of another person in the delivery room to collect the cord blood (and it didn’t bother me in the least). Congratulations on yet another big new mommy decision!

  6. ABC News did a 2 day news segment this week about banking cord blood. It was very interesting! Try their website but they pretty much concluded, it wasn’t worth the money & banking your cord blood didn’t necessarily mean you could use it.

    Good choice!

  7. I saw a TV show yesterday where some of these private companies are in trouble, legally, because they’re claiming successes that have not actually worked.
    I’m due in about 5 weeks and my Mom, a pediatrician, wanted to give the cord blood as her baby gift … until she researched it. She decided it wasn’t worth it.
    As a soon to be attorney, this whole scandal is of course very interesting to me. I’ll be blogging about it on pretty soon if you ever wanna see it!

  8. I saw the ABC report on cord blood banking, too. The private companies seem to be a rip off. Like you, I may look into public banking, but even then I’m iffy me because ABC made it seem like cord blood does very little to help many of the conditions the private banks claim it can help.

  9. there are so many options in regards to everything when having a child! i think its so great that you’re really doing your research, as well as many other readers!
    i’ve read that the likelihood of lo-risk children needing their own stem cells are 1 in 20,000 so that is wonderful you have decided to donate in hopes to save another childs life!

    we have decided to delay the cord cutting atleast until the cord stops pulating so as not to deprive the baby of those super cells at birth. while im not sure if there is a link to not having those super cells at birth and those illnesses that could come up where he’d need it later in life…
    i feel that since thats been his source of life the past 40 weeks, i want to give him all of it.

    everyone has their own reasons for why they do things, i think as long as couples are informatively making the decision themself and aren’t feeling pressured into doing something they’re not comfortable with there’s no right or wrong answer!

    great post! i do enjoy reading all of them 🙂

  10. I was thinking about that the other day!
    It was good to see your opinion! I was reading about the private banks, but i might have changed my mind!

  11. Will your hospital do it? I also looked into it and it seemed there were only a few places in the area that would even accept donations.

  12. I will be donating ours to the hospital where we are delivering. It’s so interesting that you wrote this post since I just did the same research. My OB was also not so encouraging about private banking, but loves the public donation. Good for you for hopefully saving a life with your babies blood!

  13. Thanks so much for posting about this. I didn’t even realize that donating to a public bank was an option but now I’ll definitely be looking into it! I have barely thought about cord blood storage as I knew it was really expensive and didn’t think we’d choose to do it, but hearing your sister and your doctor’s opinions makes me feel better about my decision. And if I can donate I definitely will.

    Thanks again!

  14. I have been thinking about this a little (but so far haven’t really done any research). I’m leaning towards donating the cord blood – I’m a massive and vocal advocate of blood donation and organ donation, and I just can’t see a good reason why not to donate. Thanks for the post, it’s good food for thought and might help spread the word a bit!

  15. My doctor pretty much said the same exact thing as yours; that she really didn’t see it helping people much to make it worth the money to store it. She did say though, that she had people doing the public banking maybe about 1 time/month. In a small city such as this, I thought that was fairly often. I too would love it if it could help someone out there!

  16. I tried to donate the cord blood publicly, but it wasn’t available at the small hospital I delivered at. Congrats on making a such a great decision!

  17. Check with your hospital; mine doesn’t do cord blood collection. I was thinking I’d donate it, too, but it wasn’t an option.

  18. Funny, we were just talking about this with 4 pregnant friends during dinner. My husband and I want to do it because I think I would feel extremely guilty if my child needs the cord for some reason and we didn’t do it. Everybody has different opinions two of my friends also want to donate it..but just to play it on the save side we are saving and probably doing it with ViaCord. I think donating it’s an awesome gesture.

  19. We have talked and decided not to. Clint is a math man and with the chances that we wouldn’t need it, we will deal with it if we need to.
    Great post.

  20. Thank you all so much for your thoughts! I know this is a very personal decision, and it’s really interesting and helpful (to me, at least) to hear what others are doing.

  21. I never heard of the idea before today but it sounds like a very humanitarian thing to do. I applaud.


  22. OMG, I’m so sick of getting those ViaCord marketing materials in my mailbox! We don’t plan on doing it, but if we knew from the ultrasounds that something was wrong with him that cord blood might solve, or if there were potential hereditary problems to be had down the road, we probably would have considered it.

  23. Why wouldn’t I do it? Because my kid needs that blood. He or she needs the chance to regulate the volume of blood in the body before clamping is complete–that’s what the placenta and the baby do in tandem after birth after the passage through the birth canal has squeezed much of the volume back to the placenta–, and I need uninterrupted time to deliver the placenta before the cord is clamped. For many women, delivery of the placenta takes longer than the 15 minutes that seems to be the time limit for collecting cord blood.

    I’d rather my baby have the blood now and get the best start to life possible.

  24. I love the idea of donating it. I used to audit one of the private companies. It was very interesting, I enjoyed going there. They very, very rarely were asked for the cells, which makes me think it’s not helpful in tons of situations. Of course, who knows with developments in stem cell usage.

  25. Thanks for commenting on my post about this…I totally get your reasoning for going public. One thing to consider though…should you have a baby on the weekend I am told that they will not pick up your cord blood and it can’t be donated. So it could be a risk if you really want it banked…

  26. When you see children who are alive today because of cord blood banking, it changes everything. This may not be too relevant, but you only get one chance to do this. cord blood banking companies.

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