At Willows Pediatrics we frequently meet with expectant mothers and fathers. At these consultations we are able to chat with them about a variety of topics including newborn care, lactation and what to expect in the delivery room. One of the issues our soon-to-be parents often raise is whether or not to bank their child’s umbilical cord blood … and where to do so.
Cord blood from the umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells that can save lives through stem cell transplants. Parents of newborns can elect to have the cells from their baby’s umbilical cord “banked” for future use. There are two options for families to bank their newborn’s cord blood, through a private company or through the public cord blood bank. Private cord blood banks charge a fee for storage and will hold your child’s cord blood in the event he or she should ever need it. Public cord blood banks, however, require no storage fee and list all cord blood cells on the national Be the Match Registry so they can be available to any potential matching recipient who needs a stem cell transplant.
The AAP has outlined the several advantages of public banking over private. Most significantly, donating to a public bank means that it is likely that someone will benefit from the donation. Private banks do not share information on registries because the cells are designated solely for use by the donating family. While that might sound appealing at first, the likelihood of a child needing his or her own stored cord blood stem cells is very low.
Another issue to consider is the cost associated with using a private bank. Public banks don’t charge the donor, but charge only the recipient at the time of transplant. For that reason, the AAP recommends that new parents use public cord blood banking. (One exception to this recommendation is when a family has another child who might benefit directly from transplantation with cord blood from a healthy sibling.)
A third advantage of public cord blood banking is that public banks are stringently monitored and must follow federal standards for the collection, storage and transport of umbilical cord blood.
We hope that very few of our patients will ever need to access a cord blood bank for a stem cell transplant. But for those who do, it is comforting to know that the public banks are there for every child in need. And the more expectant mothers who agree to donate their newborn’s cord blood to these public banks, the more potential matches there will be.