What You Need to Know About Cord Blood Banking

Moms-to-be follow a near universal checklist when preparing for birth. Prenatal vitamins? Got it. Hospital bag? All set. Cord blood banking? For most moms, probably not. But anyone who's ever considered the process should be armed with the facts.

At the Gift from a Newborn Baby conference, Rallie McAllister, M.D., author of The Mommy MD Guide (in conjunction with the Cord Blood Registry), discussed collecting and registering blood from umbilical cords for possible future medical treatment.

After the umbilical cord is cut, the obstetrician will harvest the stem cells in a non-surgical procedure. The cells can then be stored indefinitely in a secure holding environment and withdrawn when needed. Stem cells have already been used to treat a number of diseases, including sickle cell disease and aplastic anemia. However, it's important to note that cord blood banking isn't a fail-safe insurance plan, even when a child's own stem cells are used. For example, a child's own cord blood can't be used for treating her leukemia because her stem cells already contain the disease, rendering a transfusion useless.

Cord blood stem cells can be donated for public use or registered privately within a family. While some families see security in banking their own members' cord blood for an emergency, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against it, instead encouraging families to donate to public banks for people in need. The Academy also cautions viewing cord blood registry as a backup plan, stating that "there are no accurate statistics on the likelihood of children someday needing their own stored cells."

Shelly Connelly, a mother who spoke at the function, had a positive experience with cord blood banking. Her daughter Peyton had a brain tumor removed when she was a year old and suffered a major stroke two weeks later that left the right side of her body paralyzed. However, Connelly had registered Peyton's cord blood at birth, which was used in a simple transfusion. Peyton can now sing, dance and play with ease.

Peyton's story is uplifting, but concerns about cord blood banking persist. One of the biggest is cost, which comes to about $2,000 per individual collection and banking. And because of the uncertainty of its necessity and usefulness, many parents hesitate to put down such a sizable amount of money after an already pricey birth.

Cord blood banking is an obscure concept to many, so it's often up to mothers and their partners to initiate the conversation with obstetricians. Parents who want to register their newborn's cord blood need to prepare before labor. Expectant families must provide their obstetrician with advance notice that they wish to have their baby's cord blood collected and should always discuss the cost, risk and necessity.

Cord blood banking is an entirely personal decision that moms and partners need to thoroughly research. Talk to your obstetrician and find out whether it's right for your family.

Image via Shutterstock

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