Public & Private Cord Blood BankingKatlyn Joy |22, October 2013
There are so many choices to make when a child is born, but one of the newer ones is about what to do, if anything, with your baby's cord blood.
According to the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, cord blood is any blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. This blood is rich with stem cells which can be grown into blood and immune system cells or other types of cells. Stem cells may be frozen and used for future stem cell transplants or other procedures being developed now to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses.
Most present therapies require the stem cells used to be allogenic (from someone else), rather than autologous, (a donation of your own stem cells). There are some research studies currently happening that use stem cells from one's self to treat conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Crohn's disease, and diabetes.
Should you decide to collect and store your baby's cord blood, there are two options available to you—private banking for personal family use or public donation for use those who are eligible.
Public Cord Blood Donation
Donation to a public bank is free, but there is no guarantee you will get to use your own banked blood should an emergency arise.
The risks of donating cord blood are really nonexistent. It is not invasive and simple. After birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and a needle is used to draw blood from it. The blood then goes into a bag attached to the needle.
Some worry that if they donate their baby's cord blood to a public bank, they would not have it available to them should their child become ill. However, according to WebMD, the odds are good that the blood would still be there, unused, should your child need it in the future.
The benefits of public donation include using it to treat up to 80 diseases including blood disorders, cancers, and genetic diseases. Most of these use stem cells instead of bone marrow for transplants, and must use stem cells from another person. Many of the illnesses prohibit the use of one's own blood for treatment, as the cord blood will have the same genetic make up and problems that caused the illness initially.
Private Cord Blood Banking
For most families the main risk is a financial one with the costs being around 00 initially, and then 0 a year. The odds of getting to use the stem cells make it a very expensive form of health insurance. The American Academy of Pediatrics puts the odds at 1 in 200,000 that a child will use his own banked blood at any point in his entire lifetime.
The known instances of banked cord blood being used by the child are rare, just into double digits. This is poor math by most people's standards. However, if you have leukemia, sickle cell anemia or any other blood disorders in your family history, you may be prudent to consider private banking for your child, or other family members' possible needs.
Of course, there are a number of research projects underway now and the future may include more treatments to treat oneself with banked cord blood.
Some private banks will give statistics on the odds of a person requiring a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant within the entire span of his or her life. The problem is that banked cord blood is believed to have a shelf life of around ten years so the odds of needing the blood later in life are irrelevant if the blood had to be tossed decades earlier.
However, the banked blood may also be used by the donor families other relatives, such as the baby's siblings. This would increase the odds that banked blood could be used by the family within the ten year window. Yet the odds remain, at this point in time, quite small.
Do parents go ahead and shoulder the cost on the hope that research will give greater options for use of cord blood? That's a personal question for each family to grapple with, and something you may want to discuss with your physician. However, please keep in mind that cord blood donation or banking requires advance planning with the process starting between the 28th and 34th weeks of pregnancy.
What do you think? Do you think cord blood banking is worth it? Share your story below with others who are also considering it.Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado with her family.
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