Umbilical cord blood contains potentially lifesaving stem cells and is more effective to use in transfusions than stem cells from bone marrow. The process known as cord blood banking involves the collection of this vital resource after the birth of your newborn baby.
Here is what you need to know about cord blood banking.
What is cord blood banking?
It is a process that involves collecting, processing and subsequently freezing the umbilical cord blood, which is rich in stem cell nutrients, to allow the possibility of using it for a subsequent medical procedure at some point in the future.
If someone in your family needs a stem cell transplant in order to treat a number of potentially fatal diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia, lymphomas or maybe an immune deficiency, then you could use your baby’s cord blood provided it is considered an acceptable match.
It is also feasible that your baby might actually need their own cord blood to use in one of a number of new therapies where the stem cells are used to treat children with developmental problems, in order to heal themselves.
There are a number of clinical trials currently being carried out by medical scientists where children are being given their own cord blood as a way of developing therapies for diseases such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus (which is when there is fluid in the brain), oxygen deprivation at birth, traumatic brain injury, sensor neural hearing loss, and also type-1 diabetes, which is specific to juveniles.
Private cord blood banking
Many parents consider the use of a private cord blood bank in order to store this valuable resource that may assist their child or another family member in the future. This will involve a fee for the service and subsequent storage or the cord blood and the resource will only be available for your own private use. The alternative to this scenario is to donate your newborn’s cord blood to a public bank where a member of the public who needs a transplant will be given access to your cord blood with complete anonymity. Whilst this is an entirely admirable and charitable action to take, you should bear in mind that you would sign away your right to any future access to your cord blood, so if you were to need it at some point in the future for a family medical reason, you would not be able to call upon this resource.
The cost of private cord blood banking
There are essentially two elements to the charges involved for using a private cord blood bank. The bulk of the cost will have to be met upfront as payment for collecting, testing and processing the cord blood and then arranging suitable long term storage. This will generally cost somewhere between $1,200 and $2,200 as a general guide and you should expect an annual fee of up to $150 for ongoing storage costs.
Will you need to use it?
Every parent obviously hopes that their child will never develop an illness or require a treatment using stem cell technology and the chances of them needing a transplant using their own stem cells is just 1 in 5,000 before they reach the age of 20.
Scientific experiments are opening up numerous possibilities for future use and genetic developments mean that there is the possibility at some point in the future, the cord blood collected at birth could be used to provide a life-saving treatment that is perhaps not possible today.
There is a of course a cost to consider when considering the use of a private cord blood bank, but many parents will consider it a small price to pay for potentially safeguarding the future health of their child.