A common question that comes up as parents get close to delivery time is, “Should I bank cord blood for my baby”?
This technology has been marketed as a way to protect your child in the unfortunate event of cancer. Parents are signing up and paying large fees to store umbilical cord blood in the hopes of a potential cure if their child were ever to become seriously ill.
Cord blood banking is marketed in doctor’s offices, mailings to home, and commercials. Is the marketing fair?
There are a few important things to consider that most people aren’t aware of:
1.) There are 2 types of cord blood banking- private and public- and they are very different.
Private cord blood banking– your baby’s blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord and saved for potential use for your baby (or family member). The private banking option will include a significant cost associated with banking and storage of the cord blood. There is no payment to medical personnel- this is strictly to the company banking the blood. An ongoing yearly storage fee should be anticipated.
Public cord blood banking – your baby’s blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord and is saved for public use, not held specifically for anyone. There is no cost to donate and no ongoing storage fees.
2.) In order to do either type, there must be advance preparation before delivery.
The parents must contact the company and notify of desire to collect the sample. Once extensive paperwork is completed, a kit will be delivered to the family ahead of anticipated due date. The kit must be brought to the hospital so that blood can be collected by the obstetrician immediately after the baby is delivered.
In the public cord banking option, there are rigorous standards for collection, sample quality, and screening of the sample to ensure it is worth banking. The majority of samples collected for the public banking option are ultimately discarded as they are not deemed acceptable for use.
2.) Your baby or family is extremely unlikely to ever use the cord blood collected
Unless there is a known genetic defect in the family, it is extremely unlikely you would ever use the stored blood. In addition, private blood banks have been reported to have less quality control and more expense to families than public cord blood banks.
Because of the rigorous standards for sample quality, not all cord blood is saved with the public banking option. Despite the fact that few collected samples are deemed usable in the public storage option, this may be an opportunity for people looking to potentially make an impact and help others.
So, are these private companies scamming patients? Not exactly. It’s kind of like buying a lottery ticket. As long as you are aware that your chances of winning are extremely remote but you still want to buy it anyway- its your prerogative. Same applies here, but the cost is much more than a $2 lottery ticket.
On the other hand, public cord banking holds more tangible promise for the future.
The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourage public cord banking and discourage private cord blood banking.
While the chance of your own child using the privately stored blood is extremely low, there is about a 30x higher chance of someone getting to use cord blood stored in a public bank, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, in their statement from 10/2017, the AAP also specifically encourages use of PUBLIC donation.
Patients can find out if their hospital is on the list for public banking and how to proceed here: Public Cord Blood Donation
Are you a physician who has pamphlets about private (or public) cord blood donation in the office waiting area? What do you tell patients?
How do you feel about cord blood donation if you are a parent?