Recently, I sat in for a conference call with ProDoula and Marion Welch, a cord blood educator from Cryo-Cell International, where we discussed the latest information on cord blood banking. This practice, although it's been around for several years now, is still new to many; and since its benefits and popularity is increasing, we at VOICE Birth Options wanted to make some up-to-date facts available to you to decide what will be best for you and your family.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord Blood Banking is the process of collecting blood from your baby's umbilical cord after he's born to be saved for possible later use at either a private company or public blood bank. It is completely painless, takes about 5 minutes, and carries no risk to you or your baby.
Why would I bank my baby's cord blood?
Cord blood is saturated with stem cells - which are known as "master cells" because of their ability to replicate and differentiate (give rise to many different kinds of cells, from neurological to cardiovascular). These stem cells can be used to treat approximately 80 diseases, including cerebral palsy, Type I Diabetes, Parkinson's, immune deficiency and genetic disorders, and leukemia. To date, over 40,000 stem cell transplants have been completed with many successes; and as research continues, many promising results are arising.
Bone-Marrow Stem Cells vs. Cord Blood Stem Cells
Bone marrow transplants are often successfully used to treat many of these diseases, but there is a higher risk of rejection and complications because the stems cells are immunologically much older and have been more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins, viruses, and bacteria. Bone marrow stem cells also cannot differentiate like those from cord blood, which means they are much more limited in treating diseases. Lastly, bone marrow transplants require a complete match between donor and recipient; whereas transplants using cord blood stem cells can be done with only a partial match. This is an incredibly important factor because individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds have a much more difficult time finding a perfect match than those with a primarily northen-European ethnicity.
If your family has a history of certain diseases, and your child has a higher chance of developing one of the illnesses that stem cells are successful in treating, his own banked blood can be at your fingertips and used for a transplant. If the child whose cord blood you collected doesn't need it, another child in the family might; and because cord blood doesn't require a perfect match, the chances of a successful transplant are higher than bone marrow.
If I want to practice delayed cord clamping, is Cord Blood Banking even an option for me?
Yes! The average pulse time of an umbilical cord after the baby is born is 1-3 minutes. The amount of blood needed to obtain an adequate number of stem cells can be collected after this time. If a partial or full lotus birth is desired, cord blood collection is still possible, but there is a chance that it would not contain the required amount of stem cells needed for a transplant.
How much does cord blood banking cost?
The cost of cord blood banking has come down significantly in recent years. Many banks charge around $1200 for the first year, and then $150 a year (for cord blood only), or $300 a year (for cord blood and tissue). Often times, an HSA can be used for this expense.
What should I know if I have decided I want to bank my baby's cord blood?
There are several private blood banks out there. It's important that your blood bank is AABB and FDA accredited, saves some of the red blood cells, and offers a warranty -- many banks will offer a dollar amount to you to obtain stem cells elsewhere if a transplant doesn't take. Most companies don't have any restrictions on collections, other than perhaps stem cell count, because it is being saved for the individual from whose body it originally came.
Education should begin before 28 weeks gestation, and you should receive your kit around 32 weeks, which should be kept at room temperature. If you have any infectious diseases at the time of collection, it should be noted on your kit. It is not necessary to refrigerate or freeze your collection, and it must be transported by a medical currier only. If it is verified that the stem cell count is satisfactory, you will be notified with a certificate in the mail (usually about a month after collection).
Scientifically, stem cells can be stored for 26.5 years while maintaining a 99% viability rate; but the FDA doesn't currently have an expiration date on cord blood. The oldest stem cell to date was frozen for 20 years, with a complete success when engrafted!
Some families decide to collect their baby's cord blood to be given as a donation. Because there is a possibility for rejection or complications in transplants using another person's blood and tissue, donated cord blood must meet many requirements before it's approved for use. It's reported that 75% of donated cord blood is discarded because it does not meet the criteria.
What are my options if I choose not to bank my baby's cord blood?
In the event that your child is later on in need of this technology, but you didn't bank his own cord blood, a public bank is still a possibility (although he would not be eligible for any clinical trials for regenerative repair, as the risks for life-threatening complications are much higher when the cord blood is not a person's own). Bone marrow transplants are also still always another option.
At the end of the day...
There's no right or wrong choice concerning CBB. It all really comes down to whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks or not; and that will be different for every family. No matter what you decide, VOICE Birth Options is dedicated to giving you the support you need every step of the way!