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