One of the lesser-discussed topics regarding labor and delivery is the option to participate in cord blood banking. Yet, deciding whether or not to pursue this type of service is a hefty decision that also comes with a significant price tag.
But, is it worth it? The jury might still be out.
While only you can truly decide what’s best for your growing family, we did a bit of research, and spoke with Dr. Iffath Hoskins, clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health for more information.
What Is Cord Blood Banking?
Hoskins explains that cord blood banking is, well, what you might expect form the name. It's a collection of the cord blood after the birth of the baby and after blood samples drawn for medically indicated tests. For those who are receiving this service, blood is drawn from the umbilical cord, because cord blood contains stem cells (nearly 10 times more than those collected from bone marrow) which are the precursors to all the cells of the body. Therefore, these collected cells can be stored and then used as needed, for treating medical problems, creating body organs, etc.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) banking this blood is a type of insurance. Essentially, you pursue storing it in the hopes you’ll never need to use it, but if you do, Hoskins says, “Using a cord blood bank can provide peace of mind in knowing that you have a valuable resource if you need it.” How? These stem cells can work to treat certain diseases or conditions of a parent or sibling. Cord blood stem cells have similar ability to treat disease as bone marrow but with significantly less rejection.
According to the March of Dimes, stem cell transplants that originate from cord blood may be able to help treat diseases such as blood cancers, bone marrow diseases, some anemias, some immune system problems, and some metabolism problems.
Other health conditions that may benefit are currently being researched.
Private Vs. Public
Parents who pursue cord blood banking are faced with many options, including which service to use, and whether they want to use a private or public cord blood bank. Hoskins explains the advantage of using a public bank is that, should you need it, you’ll have a larger pool to choose from, while the advantage of banking it privately is that the sample is very specific and tailored to the specific individual from whom and for whom it was collected.
Though the process of collecting and storing the blood itself is safe, risk-free and pain free, the same can’t be said for your wallet. But for many, it’s impossible to put a price on this type of security, should you ever need it.
Generally speaking, the APA explains there are two fees – the upfront fee that covers, “enrollment, collection, and storage for at least the first year,” and subsequently the annual storage fee which is typically much less.
Prices can range from initial fees of $900-$2,100 depending on the service provider you chose, while annual storage fees are typically about $100. (For actual costs, consult the private blood bank of your choice – with popular options including Viacord, Evercord, and Cord Blood Registry.)
Though, a 2015 CNBC article cites a study from the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation as revealing, “The chance of a baby later benefiting from his or her own banked cord blood is currently less than 0.04 percent.” This might be because the need thankfully never arises, or because the banked cord blood is not useable as it may contain the same genetic defects that are causing the disease in the first place. However, the blood has the potential to help siblings and other family members who might be battling diseases.
Is it Worth It?
According to Hoskins, “If parents want additional peace of mind and reassurances that a person’s specific cord blood will be available for his/her specific future needs, then this is an option.” However, it’s an entirely personal decision, and opting to not bank the cord blood is an irreversible decision.
With ongoing research happening at a rapid pace, it can be a difficult decision for families to make, especially for those who might not be able to afford the initial costs. It’s encouraged that you discuss your options with your OB/GYN and/or pediatrician for more insight and recommendations.
Keep in mind too, that if you opt not to bank, you can donate instead either directly or indirectly, as it just might help another family in need one day.