The basics of cord blood banking

Developing a birth plan, selecting a pediatrician, arranging child care — with so many things to plan for during a pregnancy, it is understandable when seemingly less urgent matters are put aside. If you’ve put cord blood preservation on your “later” list, you’re not alone. According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, 95% of all newborn cord blood is discarded in the United States.

If cord blood preservation, also referred to as “banking,” is something you’d like to consider, it’s important to keep in mind that there is only one opportunity to collect it — immediately after your baby’s birth. This means parents must consider and plan for cord blood banking in advance of delivery.

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. To help you better understand this potentially life-saving procedure, Women’s Care Florida has put together a Q&A with some of the most essential information on the topic. To learn even more, we encourage you to click here to schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at WCF.

What is cord blood?

Cord blood is the blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord after a mother has given birth. This blood contains stem cells that, if collected and stored properly, can be used to treat certain illnesses.

Why preserve cord blood?

Stem cells are used by the body to repair and replace other cells. Once divided, stem cells have the ability to become other types of cells and are essential to our continued health. While bone marrow produces most stem cells, its production can be affected by illness or treatment.

Cord blood also contains stem cells. When an individual needs or is unable to produce healthy cells, a stem cell transplant from cord blood may be an effective alternative to a bone marrow transplant. The March of Dimes offers a number of possible benefits of using stem cells from cord blood versus bone marrow, including easy collection, more patient matches, less processing time and higher transplant success.

What illnesses can be treated with cord blood?

According to the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, more than 80 diseases are treated with cord blood stem cells, including cancers, blood disorders, genetic and metabolic diseases. Life-threatening conditions such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, and Hurl-er syndrome have all seen successful treatment with stem cell transplants.

Trials are currently underway to determine cord blood’s effectiveness in the treatment of neurological disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy, auto-immune disorders such as Crohn’s disease and type-1 diabetes, cardiovascular conditions such as myocardial infarction and cardiomyopathy, gene therapy for inherited disorders such as HIV, and orthopedic conditions such as knee cartilage repair.

Is the collection painful or dangerous to my baby?

Since the placenta and umbilical cord are no longer needed by the baby, they are typically discarded after the birth. If you choose to preserve your cord blood, it is easily — and painlessly — collected by your provider. It does not matter if you give birth vaginally or via cesarean.

What happens to the cord blood after it’s collected?

That depends. If you choose to preserve your baby’s cord blood, you have two storage options: donate it to a public cord blood bank or have it stored privately. Both have unique considerations.

A public cord blood bank allows you to donate your cord blood — free of charge — to help others or be used in research. Although you may not use the donated blood, it will become available for the match via a national donor program. According to Be the Match, expecting mothers need to make donation arrangements between the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy. You can find a list of participating hospitals here.

Another option is a family cord blood bank. These private banks store your baby’s cord blood so that you can have immediate access to it if needed. Although fees vary by bank, initial costs run between $850 — $3,000 with yearly fees averaging $150 per year.

Are there other considerations?

The decision to preserve cord blood is a personal one and should take into consideration your family’s health history and whether cord blood could help a possible condition. It should be noted, however, the chance that you or your baby will need the privately stored cord blood is 1 in 2,700. Still, many families determine the possible benefit is worth the cost.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about cord blood preservation, we encourage you to click here to schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at Women’s Care Florida.