Understanding Umbillical Cord Blood Banking

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on May 24, 2020
Soon to be mothers often ask themselves whether they should preserve their baby's cord blood. What benefits are there to preserving the blood? How much does it cost. With so many expenses surrounding a new baby, is it worth the additional time and expense.

Soon to be mothers often ask themselves whether they should preserve their baby's cord blood. What benefits are there to preserving the blood? How much does it cost.


With so many expenses surrounding a new baby, is it worth the additional time and expense. This article explores the options of preserving the blood, the cost and the benefits.

How Does the Preservation Process Work?

Cord blood is preserved by cryogenically freezing the blood found in your baby’s umbilical cord at birth. The cord blood bank sends parents a vessel to first capture and then quickly ship the blood at the time of birth.

The parents provide this receptacle to the physician or midwife at the baby's delivery. The medical personnel then capture the umbilical cord blood and place it inside the container. The container is then given to the parent(s) directly following delivery. The parent then takes the container to the appropriate shipping location such as UPS or Fedex and the blood is expressed shipped to the company where it is preserved.

When the blood reaches the cryopreservation company the blood is carefully prepared for the freezing process. After the blood has been prepared it is frozen and then transferred to it’s long term storage location. The preservation company provides the parent(s) with an account that is linked to the baby’s name.

There are two primary types of cord blood banks; public and private. In a public bank, the baby’s blood is stored a little or no cost in exchange for the blood being available for public research purposes. In a private bank, the blood is stored exclusively for the child and is privately preserved for the use of the child only.

Private blood banks do charge an ongoing yearly fee to reserve the blood. In these banks, the blood is kept as long as the account remains in good standing.

Understanding the Costs

Private cord blood banks are costly, but are still affordable for those who place a high value on blood preservation. Initially, private banks charge between $1,500 and $2,400 for the cryopreservation process. Then they charge $100 - $200 per year of the ongoing storage of the blood. It is important to consider the long term financial commitment that is being made when selecting a private bank to store the blood.However, private bank blood is always available to a parent or child whenever needed. There are no large retrieval fees levied for accessing the blood.

Public banking is free. However in a public bank there is a requirement to make the blood available for medical community research purposes. In addition, public banking does not ensure the parent(s) that the blood will be there if needed. Since the blood is available for research, it may be discarded or used if needed by the public bank. Also, if a parent wants to retrieve the blood of their own child, they may need to pay thousands of dollars to the public bank to access the blood.

I know you are probably thinking “Which type of bank is best?” The answer lies in your purpose for preserving the blood. If you feel that there may be a need to access your child’s blood for stem cell therapy at some point in the future, then a private bank is your best choice. You can easily access the blood and retrieve it without complication or delay.

However, if your primary goal is to simply store the blood at the least possible cost, the public bank option may work best for you. Remember the public bank is free, but be aware that there could be a risk of losing the blood or high fees in accessing the blood if needed at some point in the future.

What are the benefits of storing cord blood?

Cord blood is approved by the FDA for use in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. The blood is an excellent source of stem cells that need to be harvested in this type of treatment process (Source: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/cord-blood-what-you-need-know)

You may be asking yourself “How can this help my child in the future?” The cells can be used to help regrow and regenerate a patient’s blood and tissues. For instance, doctors are currently using these stem cells to help patients regenerate their blood after chemotherapy treatments. In chemotherapy, a therapeutic agent is used to slow down the growth of all fast growing cells.

Blood cells that usually grow fast, are slowed during chemo which leads to a depletion in the patient’s blood health. By giving a patient injections of stem cells after chemo, physician’s are able “jump start” the patient’s blood cells and get them growing again. While stem cells are not a “wonder cure” for everything, they are powerful allies in regenerating blood and tissue growth in specific conditions.

As the science of genetics advances, many researchers believe that stem cells will be a key tool in the fight against disease. For example, a Stanford University researcher recently was able to regrow brain cells in patient’s who had suffered cerebral damage as a result of a stroke. He did this by injecting stem cells directly into patients' brains.

The results were no less than astounding. Patient’s who were not able to walk, got up out of their wheelchairs. Patients with impaired speech had amazing speech improvements. (Source: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2016/06/stem-cells-shown-safe-beneficial-for-chronic-stroke-patients.html)

References

Concepts, Utility and Limitations of Cord Blood Banking: What Clinicians Need to Know
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29556970/

Is cord blood worth saving for public or private banking?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377335/

Cord Blood Banking for Potential Future Transplantation
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29084832/

Umbilical Cord Blood: Current Status & Promise for the Future
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21985808/

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