With new babies come so many decisions. Most are short-term like whether or not to find out the child’s gender. The consequences of other decisions last a little longer like what should we name the baby? One critical question that modern parents must ask is whether or not to bank the baby’s cord blood.
Cord blood uses increase every year. Currently cord blood stem cells can be used to treat as many as 80 diseases with researchers finding new uses every year. Although it can be difficult for new parents to imagine their children ever becoming sick, it should be remembered that cord blood is helpful to more than just the individual child involved. Individuals have a better chance of successful stem cell transplantation when using stem cells from a close biological relative and full siblings experience more than two times the rate of success when receiving stem cell transplants.
While all of this information sounds positive, there are a few significant drawbacks associated with cord blood banking. The cost of storing stem cells can be extremely hefty. With initial fees in the thousands with storage costs up to $100 a year, cord blood banking is expensive. If the cost is not prohibitive enough for a family, there is another significant problem with cord blood banking that is rarely discussed.
Children cannot usually make use of their own cord blood stem cells. Children born with genetic diseases also have cord blood tainted by the same genetic problems and require the use of outside stem cells. With the hefty price tag the question has to be asked: if my child cannot even use his own cord blood if he gets sick, what’s the point in doing this at all?
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics has an answer. Private storage of cord blood should be done in cases in which sick relatives are already present. If a sibling already suffers with leukemia for example, private storage is the best option. Both organizations advocate a second option for the majority of families.
There is a public system of cord banking in the United States. The chance of finding a match at one of these banks is up to 90%. For the majority of families, the lower cost associated with public banking is much more reasonable. Since most individuals are better served by the stem cells of others, all families benefit when public donations are made.