Cord Blood Banking

  • By:  Melissa Waddell

Cord blood is the blood that is obtained from a newborn’s umbilical cord immediately after birth. The umbilical cord will be clamped and cut, and the remaining blood in the cord will be drawn into a collection bag. This blood is unique because it is made up of powerful stem cells. These cells are biologically younger and more flexible than adult stem cells, which can be found in bone marrow.

Saving these young cells has several advantages. One, they have less risk of complications when transplanted. Two, a person has the ability to use one’s own stem cells for illnesses that currently have no medical treatment options. Third, they are immediately available for transplantation, which can minimize disease progression. And fourth, preserving these cells protects them from aging and being exposed to environmental factors and common viruses that can decrease their function.

These stem cells are important because they have the ability to renew and replace cells in blood, tissues, organs, and immune system. Cord blood stem cells are currently used to treat over 80 life-threatening diseases. Doctors are turning to cord blood as an alternative to bone marrow for use in transplants. Groundbreaking research is exploring new ways to use cord blood stem cells for treatment of common diseases such as spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

There are two types of cord blood banking. The first is a public cord blood banking facility. You would choose this option if you would like your baby’s cord blood available for research or public use. Cord blood from unrelated donors can be used to treat such conditions as leukemia. This type of banking has no cost to the donor. The second is a private cord blood banking facility. You would choose this option if you want to save your baby’s cord blood for personal use. This type of banking has a collection fee and a yearly maintenance fee as well. Average cost for collection and processing of cord blood for personal use is $1400-$2300, which is a one-time fee. Additional annual storage fee is $100-$150.There is no guarantee that the sample will be viable if needed in the future.

In 1998, the United States Food and Drug Administration established standards for cord blood banking. These standards continue to reinforce the importance of educating the expectant parents on the value of cord blood stem cells. The Institutes of Medicine issued a comprehensive report to Congress regarding cord blood banking in 2005. This report contained clear recommendations that health care professionals should provide all expectant parents with fair and balanced education on cord blood preservation prior to arrival in labor and delivery. This would allow families to make an informed decision regarding their options: preserve the stem cells for future use, donate stem cells for public use or research, or dispose of the cord blood.

The National Cord Blood Inventory was also formed at this time and supported the banking of stem cells from cord blood for the use of research and treatment of patients. To date, 28 states have passed some form of cord blood legislation, which represents 78 percent of the total annual U.S. births. Specifically in 2010, Virginia passed a law that states that health care professionals must inform all expectant parents, prior to the beginning of the third trimester, of all medically appropriate cord blood banking options. 

In order to bank cord blood, you must make this decision before delivery. This should be made during the second or third trimester. When you register, you will be given a collection kit to bring to the hospital when the baby is born. In some instances, you will be given a collection kit when you arrive at the hospital, but not all hospitals have this option, so the sooner you register, the better. Some consider cord blood collection and donation as an opportunity to possibly help someone they may never meet overcome a disease or illness, similar to blood donation or organ donation. Those who may choose collection and storage for personal use feel the costs are an investment in the long-term health of their family. Talk with your health care provider to find out if cord blood banking might be right for you.

Melissa Waddell, WHNP, a Hampton Roads native, is a nurse practitioner at Atlantic Ob/Gyn. Please call 757-463-1234 or visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.

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