Cord blood banking has been in existence since the early 1990s. Cord blood banking is a procedure where your provider collects blood from the umbilical cord at the time of delivery. The blood is stored in a special container which is then sent to the banking facility. If you intend to bank the cord blood, please mention to your provider that this is what you want to do during one of your prenatal visits. The provider will give you literature on how to contact the blood bank facility. The blood bank facility will then send you a special kit which you will take to the birthing facility at the onset of labor or for your scheduled cesarean section. You hand the kit to the labor nurse, and the nurse will make sure that your provider has the kit available when you deliver your child.
The cost of cord blood banking in 2017 runs about $1300 to $3000 for the initial collection and storage. After the initial fee, the storage cost is around $90 to $175 a year. Insurance does not cover this cost. The blood banking facilities, however, usually have payment plans and will work with you if you want to store the cord blood. Some of the cord blood banking facilities are Maze Cord Blood, LifeBank USA, Cryocell International, Alpha Cord, and Viacord. I should point out that the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not support routine blood banking as they feel that cord blood banking is a very expensive insurance that most likely will not be needed.
I always used to tell my patients when I was in practice that I recommended the cord blood banking if there was a history of leukemia or cancers in the family. I especially recommended the cord blood banking if there was a history of a child with leukemia/cancer.
From a legal point of view, the cord blood belongs to the infant according to legal scholars. Parents have the option of drawing up legal papers to be guardians of the blood until the child turns 18 years old. This is done so that the parents can have access to the blood if the blood is needed for another family member prior to the child turning 18. About 60% of cord blood has been used on siblings while 40% has been used on the donor to treat diseases.
It is unknown how long the cord blood can be stored and still retain its efficacy. Theoretically, the blood should be able to be stored forever. At the present time, the amount of cord blood which is collected at the time of delivery is enough to treat a child up to ten years old. Future advancements may change this restriction.
The cord blood contains stem cells which can be used to treat different blood disorders such as leukemia, preleukemia, certain cancers, sickle cell disorder, and some metabolic disorders. To date, about eighty diseases can be treated with cord blood. The cord blood is infused into the recipients blood stream and the stem cells will differentiate into the cells that are required to treat that particular condition.
Recent studies done on rats have also shown potential benefits of using cord blood to treat hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. In a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, rats who suffered hypoxic-ischemic brain injury were injected intraperitoneally with umbilical cord blood cells. These rats showed an increase in brain volume, and improvement in their motor skills when compared to the control group. It’s unclear what this means if the stem cells are used in humans, but there is some promise that this may be helpful for people suffering the aftereffects of birth hypoxia (cerebral palsy) or stroke.
Interestingly, there is research looking at using the umbilical cord tissue as well. The umbilical cord has different types of stem cells which are useful in repairing cartilage, muscle and nerve cells.
Again, I recommend discussing the issue of cord blood banking with your provider and making an informed decision. To learn more, you can call the Cord Blood Registry at 1-888-240-1996 and speak with a stem cell educator who can help answer your questions. You can also access additional information at cordblood.com. Wishing you a successful and problem free delivery, Pablo.