If you’re an expecting parent, one of the many decisions you may be facing is whether or not to have your child’s umbilical cord blood banked for future use. How to wade through the advertising from private cord blood banks and the evidence for their use? Are the potential benefits worth the cost?
What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking is the practice of collecting your baby’s blood from the umbilical cord before it stops flowing immediately after birth. The blood is then cryogenically preserved, or frozen, for potential future use.
Cord blood is rich in stem cells, which have the ability to morph into other blood cells, and may be used to treat diseases of the blood and immune system. At this time, science sees the exciting potential for cord blood use, but current therapeutic applications are limited.
Public or private banking?
There are both public and private cord blood banks in Canada. Public cord blood banks are run by Canadian Blood Services. If you donate your baby’s cord blood, it may be used by an eligible and needy recipient. You will not be able to access it in future for your family’s use. In Toronto, only mother’s delivering at William Osler Health Services Brampton Civic Hospital can make cord blood donations. You can also pay a private blood cord bank to collect and store your baby’s cord blood, to be used only by your family in the future.
How much does it cost?
There is no cost to donate your baby’s cord blood.
Private banking in Canada runs anywhere from $1400 to $2300 for the first year for collection and cryostorage, with yearly storage costs of $100-$150 after that. By the time your child reaches age 21, you may have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000.
Is it worth it?
For some families, private cord blood banking is a worthwhile insurance policy, especially depending on their family medical history. Other’s may feel that their money is better invested elsewhere for their child’s future.
If your child develops a medical condition in future, their own cord blood may not be considered for use. What about siblings or other family members? There’s about a 25% chance that family members will be a match with your child’s blood.
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of delayed cord clamping at your baby’s birth, it may reduce the amount of viable blood that is collected to be banked.
Less than one tenth of one percent (-0.01%) of the units banked with Canada’s largest private cord blood bank, Insception, have been retrieved for stem cell transplant.
For further information as you make your decision, this Globe and Mail article weighs the pros and cons, and this position paper from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) provides further data.
In the end, whether or not to bank your baby’s cord blood is a very individual decision. As your doula, I support you in all your choices, because only you know what is best for you and your family.