The Complete Guide To Cord Blood Banking: Pros, Cons, Costs And Basics

October 24, 2022

Banking a child' s cord blood has become an increasingly popular practice over the past two decades, giving families access to life-saving treatments later on in life. A variety of family banks across the world offer cord blood banking services for a reasonable fee. The stem cells stored can be used in the future for emerging treatments for the family. Public banks offer a similar service for free, but this doesn't always mean that one will have access to their baby's stem cells in future.

What Is Cord Blood Banking?

Cord blood banking is a practice that involves preservation of a newborn's stem cells found in the placenta and umbilical cord. There is a certain amount of blood with valuable stem cells that remain in the placenta and umbilical cord when a baby is born, even in cases of delayed cord clamping.

The umbilical cord and placenta are rich sources of newborn stem cells. The stem cells found in the placenta and cord tissue are mesenchymal while those in the cord blood itself are hematopoietic. New parents have the option of dispensing that blood, preserving it with either a family bank or donating it to a public bank. The whole process of collecting the cord blood and storing it for future medical purposes is what is known as cord blood banking.

How Cord Blood Is Collected

Whether one has a C-section or a vaginal birth, the process of collecting cord blood is painless and non-disruptive for both mother and baby. Once the baby is born, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord before cutting it, then a nurse or assigned caregiver inserts a needle into the umbilical cord to extract any remaining blood.

Cord blood has to be harvested immediately after birth because delaying the procedure will give it time to clot. The device used is kept away from the baby for safety purposes. Doctors often collect cord blood into heparin free bags. Once collected, the blood is shipped to a bank of the family's choice. Upon arrival at the bank, the cord blood is tested for usability and then cryogenically frozen.

Diseases Which Can Be Treated With Cord Blood

Cord blood is used to treat almost eighty diseases today including blood disorders, cancers, and genetic diseases. The stem cells are infused into a patient's bloodstream in a procedure known as cord blood transplant. They then get to work repairing any damaged cells and tissue within the body. This process is considered successful if the stem cells change the immune system of the patient.

Many of the conditions treated with cord blood are genetic and often require a donor transplant from a sibling. In fact, the chances of success are higher when cord blood from a relative is compared to a non-relative. Cord blood has also been known to be used in medicine clinical trials for cerebral palsy and autism.

Other Uses Of Cord Blood

Scientists around the world continue to explore new ways of using cord blood. For instance, children with autism are being treated with their own cord blood. A study conducted in May 2017 published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine cited that children with ASD showed significant improvement after six months.

Developing therapies for oxygen deprivation at birth, congenital heart failure, hydrocephalus and juvenile diabetes using cord blood is not a new practice. Doctors have noted significant improvement in the performance of the left-right ventricle after administering stem cells for at least twelve months. While there is not a lot of data on the effectiveness of using stem cell therapy to treat some conditions, it is clear that advancements continue to be made each day.

The Cost Of Cord Blood Banking

While storing cord blood with a public bank does not cost much, the same cannot be said for a private bank. Many of the private banks require a one-time fee, which covers the collection, processing, and administrative expenses associated with the process. A family can pay anywhere between $1300 and $2300 during the first year of cord blood banking. One will also be required to pay an annual fee, which usually ranges from $100 to $180. Some private banks offer financing options for pre-paid plans that include over twenty years of storage.

Public banks often pay for donated cord blood, with each unit costing up to $2500 in collection and processing fees. Most of these units are used for transplant patients and research purposes. Important things to consider when looking for a cord blood bank include the availability of a discount if paying upfront, additional discounts for those in the military as well as the cost of shipping cost.

The Length Of Time Cord Blood Is Viable

The viability of cord blood is something that many parents worry about. Considering that blood banking has been in existence for a little over twenty years, it is hard to prove whether or not cord blood can remain viable for longer than twenty-five years. Therefore, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that doctors do not label units with an expiration date. And while the number can easily change, it is important to remember that frozen blood can last indefinitely. This theory is supported by the fact that sperm and other cell types have remained viable after more than fifty years in storage. There is also the fact that cord blood is stored at below -190 degrees Celsius, at which point any biological activity ceases.

The Benefits Of Cord Blood Banking

The benefits that come with cord blood banking are often associated with the cord blood itself. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which are the building blocks of blood as well as the immune system. They can repair damaged cell tissues, develop into other types of cells and be used to treat various medical conditions.

Doctors have been known to use stem cell therapy in patients with leukemia to help create a new immune system, thus giving them a better chance of making a full recovery. Matching patients with cord blood is much more accessible when compared to other sources of stem cells because there is a reduced risk of the patient's blood rejecting the transfusion.

Medical Concerns Associated With Cord Blood Banking

There are still a number of disadvantages associated with cord blood banking. Some of the difficulties include; the volume of cord blood collected is minimal, hence fewer stem cells available for transplantation as compared to the number of cells collected in customizable harvests. Also, cord blood transplant patients are susceptible to infection during the first three months after the procedure. The risk is higher in older individuals who require an increased number of stem cells. Donor cells in the case of cord blood come from infants who will not be available for an additional donation of bone marrow or stem cells. Should the procedure fail, one would have to obtain a cord blood unit from a different donor.

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