It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the decisions you have to make as a new parent. One of the first – and most important – decisions you’ll make when you’re pregnant is whether to store/donate cord blood. We’re breaking down the basics of the potentially life-saving procedure of cord blood storage so that you can make the best decision for your family.
Cord blood is the blood that’s leftover in the umbilical cord and placenta. Collecting this blood at birth can be a life-saving procedure. The stem cells in this blood can treat approximately 80 diseases (such as leukemia, osteoporosis and some types of cancer). Many of those diseases are genetic diseases. Even if the blood is not used for the baby it came from, it may help a sibling or another relative down the line. There’s a 100% chance of a match for parents, and a 75% chance of a match for parents.
The procedure itself is painless and relatively simple, thought it requires advanced planning. If you choose to store the cord blood privately, it’ll likely cost you $900-2100 initially. Storage will cost approximately $100/year. In addition, you’ll have to look for a bank accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks unless you’re choosing to donate your baby’s cord blood. More than 1 million units of cord blood are stored in private banks while about a quarter million units of cord blood are stored in public banks. That said, more than 95% of all newborn cord blood in the United States is discarded (that’s a lot of blood!).
If you decide to go the private bank route, there are many factors to consider. The key is to start your research early – you may even benefit financially from doing so. Some banks may provide a discount if you register early. Others charge a late fee if you register too close to your due-date. Asking friends and family for recommendations can also be beneficial, as some places will offer referral discounts.
Beyond the basics like ensuring that the bank meets both federal and state regulations, you’ll also want to ask more specific questions and read the contract thoroughly. How long has the bank been open for? How quickly does the lab process the blood? Blood should only be collected in the 15 minutes following delivery and it must be processed by a lab within 48 hours of delivery. You’ll also want to ask how the cord blood is transported. Will the blood be properly insulated to prevent changes in temperature from occurring? (Extreme temperatures can speed up the death of the cells). What percentage of the blood has been used for transplants? Low percentage rates may be indicative that the bank’s processes aren’t thorough and doctors have rejected the blood for transplants.
You can choose to donate the cord blood to help another family in need (which is free) if you decide not to keep it for your own family. You need to make the decision to donate before electing to have it collected, though. Not all hospitals collect cord blood for public facilities. In addition, cord blood stored at private facilities cannot be listed on the blood match registry after the fact.