Banking Your Baby's Cord Blood

Should you bank your child's cord blood?A decade ago, banking your baby’s cord blood or amniotic fluid may have seemed like science fiction, but today banking cord blood is so popular you can even list this service on your baby shower registry. Before you ask loved ones to help you bank your baby’s cord blood instead of buying booties you should know the facts.

Your baby’s umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells. These cells are the body’s building blocks for blood, organs, tissue, and the immune system and are genetically unique to each baby. Cord blood stem cells are used to fight diseases and malignancies, autoimmune diseases like lupus, and inheritable diseases such as sickle cell anemia. Dr. Jennifer Willert, hematology/oncology specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital, says she frequently uses cord blood stem cells for treating patients with everything from leukemia to thalassemia.

Willert says, “Cord blood can also be used to treat siblings. Sibling collections are done when a child has a known transplantable illness such as leukemia and aplastic anemia.”

There are no health risks related to cord blood collection. Cord blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord after it has been cut, and is painless.

Morey Kraus, chief scientific officer for ViaCord, states, “Cord blood can be cryogenically stored indefinitely. They may be of value to a baby in future applications of regenerative medicine.”

Currently there are ongoing clinical trials testing the use of a child’s own cord blood among children with cerebral palsy and type-1 diabetes.

Public Cord Blood Banking Is Also Available

You can donate your baby’s cord blood. Unlike private banks, public banks do not charge to collect cord blood; they charge patients’ insurance company when cells are used. Once it is entered in the public system, the blood is available to anyone who needs it.

Dr. Karen Taylor, medical director of collections and education for StemCyte, tells patients they have three cord blood options: donating, private banking or medical disposal. To donate cord blood, a patient must deliver in a hospital where public cord blood collections are being done. (StemCyte is the only public cord blood bank in California, and is currently doing public collections at Sharp Mary Birch.)

Taylor advises patients with a mixed background to privately bank because these types of units are more difficult to find in the public cord blood bank inventory.

“My goal and job is to build our inventory so the discrepancy between different ethnicities is no longer an issue” says Taylor.

New mom Stephanie Noncovich of University City, says “We are biracial and knew that if we ever needed cord blood for our daughter it would be hard to find a match.”

Amniotic Fluid Banking

Amniotic fluid is the nourishing and protective liquid that surrounds the baby during pregnancy. Amniotic fluid stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells) differ from cord blood stem cells. These multifunctional cells can grow into many different organs and tissues. Research shows that these cells can be potentially used to help treat future common injuries such as repairing cartilage for the knee, healing wounds or even grow a heart valve.

Amniotic fluid is collected during amniocentesis, and then stored. There is a one in 400 risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis. Miscarriages can occur because of infection in the uterus, when water breaks or labor is induced prematurely.

Paolo Bassanini, Biocell Center general manager, says, “If you undergo a genetic amniocentesis, which is a routine procedure, you have the chance to collect one of the best types of stem cells available.”

Expectant mom Beth Vardiman of Eastlake says, “We were having an amniotic test; there could be something wrong with her. If that was the case, we may be able to use the amniotic fluid to build or produce some vital items she may need. I would rather know we have it, and not need it than need it and not have it.”

Critics argue that banking amniotic fluid is still in its experimental stage. Bassanini agrees but is quick to point out that bone marrow stem cells are widely used in treating patients and are similar to amniotic fluid stem cells. He says, “We are confident in a very short time we will be able to have the same therapies approved for amniotic fluid stem cells.”

No longer futuristic, these health options are available for this new generation of babies. While science continues to make medical advances in leaps and bounds one sentiment remains consistently true, parents will always do whatever it takes to protect their children.

How Much Does It Cost?

Cord Blood: Fees range from 900 to 2100 dollars depending on the length of storage; annual storage fees are approximately 100 dollars.

Amniotic fluid: Initial fee of approximately 1,650 dollars; 120 dollar annual storage fee.

Menstrual: 500 dollar processing fee: 99 dollar annual storage fee.

Menstrual Blood Stem Cell Storage

Menstrual cell stems are unique in that they can differentiate into five types of healthy cells including heart, nerve, bone, cartilage and fat. They can be easily and painlessly collected. Learn more at


Courtney Daly-Pavone is a freelance writer, former television anchor radio producer. She lives in San Diego with her husband and 19 month-old son.

Published: June 6, 2012


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