Storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood: Is it a good idea?

You’ve probably seen those ads. The ones that say something like this, “Save your baby’s cord blood and protect her from serious illness in the future.” Should you do it?

The December 22 issue of Newsweek has a good article on this topic. The story is called “When Medicine Meets Marketing,” and it asks an important question: “Is salesmanship outpacing science?”

Umbilical cord blood is the blood left in the cord and placenta after the baby is born and the cord is cut. It is a rich source of stem cells.

Stem cells can be used to treat some genetic disorders and certain cancers. More than 70 disorders have been treated with stem cells from cord blood. Parents can now store their newborn baby’s cord blood at private cord blood banks.

Sounds good, right? But here’s the catch. If a child does need a stem-cell transplant, his own stem cells usually are not the safest or best source of stem cells for treatment.

OK, then, “Who should store umbilical cord blood?” Families who have a history of certain genetic diseases may want to store cord blood in a private bank for their family members. Health care providers, including genetic counselors, can provide more information.

But for the rest of us, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend storing cord blood in private banks. Storage is expensive, and the likelihood of it helping the baby is small, maybe even nonexistent.

The ads from umbilical cord blood banks are everywhere these days. But think twice before storing umbilical cord blood. Talk to your family’s health care providers first.

Here’s an alternative. The AAP and many scientists favor the storage of cord blood in public banks. It can be used to help people who urgently need blood cell transplants.

To learn more about umbilical cord blood, read the March of Dimes fact sheet.

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6 Responses to “Storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood: Is it a good idea?”

  1. Lena Says:

    Hopefully, there’s never a need for the blood, but storing it is a form of health insurance and we didn’t want to regret our decision down the road.

    If you can afford it, why NOT do it? Why cheat your child or other family members of the possibilities of future applications?

    We initially thought cord blood banking was out of our price range, but we set up a gift registry at CBR and let our family and friends help defray the expense by contributing.
    It’s a personal decision each family has to make for themselves.

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  3. Pam Says:

    Hi, Lena: Thanks for the comment. You are right; this is a personal decision. What concerns me and others is the aggressive marketing done by some of the cord banks. This puts some women in the position of feeling guilty if they don’t do this.

    For many people, the expense is very high. They simply can’t afford it. It is probably best for them to spend the money in other ways that have a clear benefit for the family.

    At this point, the benefit for the baby of storing cord blood is simply not clear. As I said in the original post, if a child does need a stem-cell transplant, his own stem cells usually are not the safest or best source for treatment. It’s important that families know this.

    As families make this decision, they need to educate themselves from several sources, including medical experts. The cord banks should not be the only source of information.

    Again, thanks for telling us about your personal situation.

  4. You Are Parenting » Storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood: Is it a good idea?-Pregnancy, Babies, Birth tips information and more Says:

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  5. prerna Says:

    Thanks a lot for the information. But as I can see, its an article written as per the researches till 2008. Has there been any new developments in the field?
    I am in 8th month of my preg. neither me, nor my husband has got any heredity of above mentioned diseases. So shall we preserve the cord cells? Also, as you’ve mentioned that own cells are not the safest, does it still hold true or has there been any new findings contradicting that also?
    Please help asap. Waiting for you’re reply.
    Thanks in anticipation,

  6. Lindsay Says:

    Hi Prerna – As of January 28th, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics “discourages storing cord blood at private banks for later personal or family use as a general “insurance policy.” Rather, they encourage families to donate their newborn’s cord blood, which is normally discarded at birth, to cord blood banks (if accessible in their area) for other individuals in need. (You should be aware, though, that your baby’s cord blood would not be available as a stem cell source if your child developed leukemia later in life.)

    “Storing your child’s cord blood is certainly an issue that you should discuss with your obstetrician and/or pediatrician before your baby is born, not during the emotionally stressful time of delivery. She may refer you to cord blood banks in your community. You will need to register ahead of time so that the appropriate collection kit can be sent to you or your obstetrician to be used at your delivery.”