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To Bank Cord Blood or Not October 29, 2010

Posted by frrobins in health, Products.
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It seemed like a no brainer. Save my baby’s cord blood and that way, just in case the worst happens and he develops cancer or some other disease, he will have a source of blood that is a genetic match to him to cure it. You’d be crazy to pass up on the opportunity! It seemed to be more of a question of where to bank his blood then whether or not to.

So I asked my doctor for a recommendation. And was floored when he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it. He cautioned that cord blood banking was controversial, but if I really wanted to do it that they suggested company X. So I went into research mode.

First let me discuss the two types of banking: public and private. Public banking means that the blood can be used by anyone who has one of the diseases that cord blood can be used to treat and is a match. Private banking is where you pay a lot of money to have the blood stored for use only for your child or a family member of your choosing. It’s billed as a biological insurance policy for your baby. While the odds are low that your little bundle of joy will develop leukemia, would you really want to risk throwing away the cord blood that could cure him if he did?

I quickly found information about how, if you don’t have any family history of the 80 diseases that cord blood banking treats it’s probably not cost effective. Neither my husband or I do. Yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of ‘what if.’ What if my baby is the first one in my family to develop leukemia? I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life for not banking his blood.

There’s a secret that private cord blood bankers don’t want new parents to know, though. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the premalignant cells that will cause your child to fall ill with most of the diseases that cord blood treats already exist in the blood! This means that your babies’ blood will be useless. If your baby is going to develop leukemia, it’s already in the cord blood and it can’t be used for treatment. Banking it will not save your babies’ life someday.

In fact, the only time that private banking is encouraged is when there is a sibling or other family member that has a condition that can be treated with cord blood. Otherwise, public banking where you donate the cord blood when the baby is born and anyone who is matched can use it is encouraged.

Not to mention difficult. I plan to deliver in Fort Worth, a fairly big city, and none of the hospitals in my area offer a means for you to donate cord blood. The closest one that does is in Dallas, and I’m not driving an hour away to deliver my baby. I found that if I was really interested in jumping through a complex maze of hoops and putting down a lot of money I might be able to arrange to donate it, but I decided it just wasn’t worth the headache.

While I do feel a bit bad knowing that something that is potentially life saving will go to waste, I feel a lot more comfortable with my decision not to bank his cord blood privately. It’s a really new and exciting field of medicine with a lot of potential, but it’s also very over hyped. And frankly, the private cord blood banking companies make promises that they can’t keep (I honestly think they should be required to say that cord blood will be useless if your baby develops most of the diseases that it’s used to treat).

I do hope that soon in the future it will be easy, perhaps even standard, to donate your babies’ blood to a public bank. But that day is not today.

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1. Is anyone out there saving the cord blood? | Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells - November 4, 2010

[…] To Bank Cord Blood or Not « Talks Many Moons // Share and Enjoy: […]


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