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Choosing a Cord Blood Bank

by Katlyn Joy
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Choosing a Cord Blood Bank

Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth. It contains blood-forming stem cells which can be used to treat a variety of diseases such as those involving the blood, immune system or metabolism. It is also useful to help a patient recover after cancer treatments that deplete the immune system.

While some agencies and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have advised caution in using private cord blood banks, citing the need for such blood cells is unlikely in most families' cases and that some parents might be manipulated into banking blood for a company's profit. The AAP does however endorse the use in cases of family history of certain diseases or current health issues which indicate a likelihood of requiring a stem cell transplant. Also, certain children such as those from a minority background, adopted children or those conceived through in vitro might also be more likely to benefit from banked cord blood since finding suitable donors is more difficult in these cases.

However, some physicians and organizations believe that the future uses of banked cord blood are vast, and banking should be done for the possibilities of treatment years down the road.

Should a family choose to bank their newborn's cord blood, they must decide which cord blood bank to work with. First, check with the hospital where you will deliver as some hospitals have exclusive contracts with only one bank to simplify the procedure and minimize problems.

If the parents are free to choose their own bank, make certain to get the answers to vital questions before committing.

How Much Does it Cost?

What are the fees associated with the collection and storage of the cord blood? Is the fee reduced for early registration? Is there a one time family fee, or a fee per delivery? If an error occurs, will the money be refunded? Is the rate for storage fixed? Is there a charge for releasing the blood should it be needed?

Company History

How long has the company been in the cord blood business and how many customers do they have? Has your hospital worked with this company? How many transplants have been performed using blood from the bank? What happens to the samples if the company goes under? Is the company FDA approved for cord blood banking? Is the company accredited by the AABB or the American Association of Blood Banks or FACT or the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy? These are the two major accreditation bodies. Parents should only choose a cord blood bank that is accredited.

Collection Method

Does the company use a gravity drip collection or a syringe? Syringe methods collect more blood. Is the blood collected in a bag or a vial? The AABB requires bag storage for accreditation.

Delivery and Storage

What delivery method is used to transport the blood? Samples can be destroyed because of improper temperature in transit . A reputable bank should use a medical courier company. Storage questions include where samples are kept, if they are stored with other types of medical samples, and whether a family's blood is kept as one unit or kept compartmentalized. An advantage to compartmentalized storage is that only the samples that are required will be used and others would be available for future therapy.

Testing and Information

What types of tests are performed on the blood samples and what reasons would force a bank to reject the samples? Will parents receive notification of when the blood is processed and approved for storage? What type of reports will parents receive in the future regarding the samples?

Cord blood is a valuable resource, and should a family not opt to bank the blood privately they should consider donation as another possibility to help others with leukemia or other types of diseases.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer, and just graduated with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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