Why Cord Blood Banking Might Not Be Right for You

Should you consider donating your cord blood to a public bank or save it in a private bank? Here's some information to help you make a decision.

When Audrey Beerman of Long Island City, New York, was expecting her son, Ari, a year and a half ago, she made plans to donate his cord blood to a public bank, instead of paying to store it privately. "Throwing away something that could save a child's life, when it would be free and effortless to donate it to people who could facilitate making that happen, seemed crazy to me," Beerman says. "Plus, if my son ever needed cord blood, I'd like to think it would be there for him -- if not his own, than someone else's." But if you're not sure whether cord blood banking (public or private) is a good fit, read the facts about cord blood banking to help you decide.

Cord blood banking costs vary. Although public cord blood banking is free and covers all costs (collecting, testing, processing, storing), private cord blood banking can cost between $1,400 and $2,300 for collecting, testing, and registering, plus an annual $95 to $125 for storing.

Cord blood banking access differs. Families who store their cord blood privately, for a fee, have exclusive access to it at any time. If you choose to donate your cord blood to a public bank, there's no guarantee that the cord blood will be available if someone in your family needs it in the future.

Your child may never need her cord blood. Stem-cell rich cord blood can be used to treat a range of diseases, but Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, estimates that the chance of having a stem cell transplant with cord blood (or bone marrow) is 1 in 217 over a lifetime, particularly if your child doesn't have a family history of diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell anemia.

Cord blood can't be used to treat the same child who has a genetic disease because the stem cells would have that same genetic flaw, but the cord blood could be used to benefit a sibling or another immediate family member with leukemia. However, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states cord blood has been used to treat certain diseases successfully, there isn't strong evidence to support cord blood banking. If a family does choose to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to reduce costs.

There's no guarantee that a sick sibling will be a match. Although biological siblings have the greatest probability of being a cord blood match, there's only a 25 percent chance that they will be, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

Most privately stored cord blood is discarded. Although doctors and researchers have not identified an expiration date for cord blood, it's eventually thrown away if you decide not to stop banking it privately. "But when you donate [cord blood to a public bank] it can be used for any child in need or any adult in need," says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Cord blood banks are regulated differently. In the United States, the FDA registers and inspects private banks, but does not require them to have a Biologics License Applications (an extra accreditation) as public banks do, says Dr. Verter. Private banks are not required to have as much regulation as public banks are because the donor (that is, the baby who gave the cord blood) is known and can be tested again. In public banks, Dr. Verter says, the cord blood is listed anonymously for use by unrelated patients, so it has to clear multiple safety tests before it goes on that public registry.

Private banks may go out of business. "Public cord blood banks are huge organizations that will survive, whereas many private cord blood banks are smaller and might not survive," Dr. Shearer says. If the bank where you family's cord blood is stored goes out of business, it will likely be picked up by another private bank (but there's no guarantee). Currently, there is no option to move your cord blood from a private bank to a public bank or vice versa.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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