Cord Blood Banking: What You Should Know

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. | Oct 19, 2017

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Cord blood banking has been around since the 1990s. It is often sold to new parents as a form of biological “insurance” for certain blood disorders, cancers, and metabolic disorders. There are certainly benefits to using cord blood in medicine. However, it’s important to learn about who should store cord blood and when.

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What is cord blood banking?

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Umbilical cord blood has special types of blood cells called stem cells that can be used to help treat certain diseases and some cancers. There are two main types of cord blood banking. Public cord blood banking allows you to donate your cord blood, whereas private cord blood banking allows you to store it for your family’s own use (“directed donation”).

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What is public cord blood banking?

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The first option is called public cord blood banking. This means that cord blood is collected and donated to a public bank for use by whoever may need it. Whenever a match is found, it is used. As the parent of the baby, you typically do not have exclusive access to it. Donating to a public cord blood bank is free.

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What is private cord blood banking?

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The second option is private cord blood banking, which means you save the cord blood for only your family to use should they need and be able to use it. You typically pay for the service. Given the slim chance that you would need to use the cord blood, both the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend against private banking as “insurance” for future disease.

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How is cord blood banking done?

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Within a minute of birth, the doctor or midwife uses a special collection kit to gather blood from the umbilical cord. This can be done before or after the delivery of the placenta. The goal is to get at least 40 mL of blood from the collection. Without this amount, you run the risk of the cord blood bank rejecting the donation.

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What is delayed cord clamping, and how does it impact cord blood banking?

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Delayed cord clamping is when you wait up to several minutes to clamp the umbilical cord after a baby is delivered. The goal with cord blood banking is to collect as much blood as possible from the umbilical cord. Delaying past one minute may limit the amount of blood collected and is not recommended if you’re doing public banking.

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Can you do cord blood banking with a cesarean delivery?

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Typically, having a cesarean birth will not prevent cord blood collection. It is important to understand that cord blood banking is not considered standard medical care, and ACOG says cord blood collection should not jeopardize medical care. This means that cord blood collection will be done after the surgery is completed, if the time and situation allow. There is some speculation that this could lead to a lower volume of blood collected.

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Can you do cord blood banking with a home birth?

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Midwives are present at the vast majority of home births. In general, midwives are open and able to do cord blood collection. This, again, assumes that the primary medical care is attended to first and foremost, followed by the collection. However, it is up to the parents to ensure the cord blood is stored and transported according to the instructions given by the organization that is receiving it.

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How much does cord blood banking cost?

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While public cord blood banking is free, private banking typically has a cost of collection and storage. Some companies will charge a one-time fee, including up to 20 years of storage. The initial fees can be between $1,000-3,000, with yearly storage running between $90-175.

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How do you pick a bank for cord blood storage?

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All labs are inspected, but you will want to ensure that the lab you choose meets all the state and federal requirements to protect your cord blood. You should also ensure that they are financially stable. You are storing something long-term, and a business that is in financial trouble may not be around years down the line. This may mean that the cheapest offer is not the most reliable. You may also want to find a lab that transports your cord blood with temperature control and processes it within 48 hours.

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Does cord blood banking hurt?

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The good news is that the removal of the cord blood does not physically hurt the mother or the baby. This is because the umbilical cord does not have any nerves. Plus, the cord blood collection is done after the baby has had the cord cut and potentially after the placenta is delivered.

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Who should consider cord blood banking?

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The AAP encourages cord blood collection if it may be used for a full sibling with a known medical condition. They also encourage public banking. What is not recommended is private storage for the purpose of potential use by the baby or a family member in the future.

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Why isn’t autologous cord blood banking recommended?

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An autologous transplant is when collected cord blood is used on the child it was taken from originally. Autologous donation is not recommended because the problems that cord blood stem cells are used to cure would also exist in the baby’s cord blood.