How It Works
If you opt to store your baby's cord blood, it will be collected in the hospital almost immediately after you give birth but before you deliver the placenta, ideally. (You can still bank your baby's blood if you have a c-section, and probably if you have a multiple birth.) The bank will send you a collection kit before you deliver; your doctor, midwife, or a nurse uses this to collect the blood. Then a courier sent by the bank typically comes to the hospital to pick up the kit and take it to the bank, where it's processed and stored in a bag or vial that's then frozen in liquid nitrogen. There is no risk to the mother or baby in collecting the cord blood cells, which would otherwise be discarded.
Storing your baby's cord blood cells doesn't come cheap: If you opt for one of the approximately 15 companies offering private cord blood banking, you'll pay $900 to $2,000 for the collection and registration, plus about $95 per year for storage. In addition, nearly all banks require that the expectant mother be tested for various infections. Cryo-Cell, for example, tests for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, and human T-cell lymphotrophic virus (thought to be a precursor to leukemia). This can cost you hundreds of dollars more if it's not included in the bank's fee (Cryo-Cell includes testing), and your insurance doesn't cover it.
If your budget won't allow for cord blood banking, there are other options, stresses Dr. Kurtzberg. "People should know that if they can't do this because they can't afford it, or for some other reason, they haven't denied their child a chance at a transplant. Public banks have enough units, and in many cases it's not essential to have a related donor. People shouldn't be made to feel that they haven't done everything they could for their child."
Dr. Szczepiorkowski, who banked both his children's cord blood, adds that ultimately the decision to bank or not to bank is not an entirely logical one, and every parent must make the decision that's right for him or her. "This was an emotional issue for me and my wife. Scientifically speaking, the chances of using the cord blood are low, but not zero," he explains. "I want the best for my child, and this is one of the options."