Cord Blood Banking

You’ve probably heard of cord blood banking, or at least seen the shiny brochures advertising it. But most of us don’t really understand what cord blood is, or why we may or may not want to bank it. 

What is cord blood? 

“Cord blood” simply refers to the small amount of blood that can be taken from the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. This blood is rich in stem cells, which are a special kind of cells that could grow and develop into any type of cell in the body. 

How can cord blood be used? 

Cord blood (along with its stem cells) can be harvested shortly after birth (at no risk to the mother or baby) and then stored for later use. There are a number of diseases that can be treated with stem cell transplants, such as: 

  • certain cancers 
  • aplastic anemia 
  • sickle cell disease 
  • immune system disorders 

Should I bank my baby’s cord blood? 

Some parents choose to bank cord blood in case their child develops a serious disease later in life that might be treatable with his or her own stem cells. If the parents already have a child with one of these diseases, they might bank their next child’s cord blood in case it could help the sick sibling. Private banking of cord blood is generally quite expensive, so you would need to weigh the cost and benefit for your family. 

Cord blood can also be donated to public banks, which may then use the stem cells for research or to treat any patient who needs them, and for whom the blood is a match. There is no cost to donate cord blood. 

If you’re considering cord blood banking, be sure and do your own research and then talk about your options with your health care provider.