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?