By Idesha S. Reese

How to get started with storing or donating your baby’s cord blood

By the 28th week and no later than the 34th week of pregnancy, mothers will need to discuss cord blood storage with their healthcare providers. They will need to verify their provider is trained in cord blood collection and is willing to do so. Cord blood banks need a few weeks before the arrival of the baby to obtain parental health history and verify their eligibility to donate. The mother will need to answer health history questions, have time to receive the collection kit which goes to the hospital at the time of delivery and submit a blood sample for testing (mother’s blood only, usually the day after the birth of the baby).

There are two options for what to do with the cord blood after collection. Parents can have the cord blood stored with a private “family” cord blood storage facility for a fee. Parents can also choose to donate the cord blood to a public cord blood bank for anyone who needs it or for research. There are benefits with both options.

Private Cord Blood Storage

The fees for private cord blood storage, which also usually includes collection, courier pick-up, shipping and processing, can cost parents around $1700 the first year. It typically costs $150 for each additional year, for 18-21 years. $4,250 is the total cost for storage of 1 – 5 fluid ounces of genetic material for you or your children. In 2013, approximately five percent of parents in the US stored their baby’s cord blood; 90 percent using private “family” cord blood banks and 10 percent in public banks, according to the Parents’ Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.

The private cord blood bank will screen the cord blood for diseases as well as asking genetic and medical background questions of the parents before storage. Stem cells from the cord blood could be used in the treatment of certain diseases for a sibling of the donor child or even the parent. Most often cord blood is not used as treatment for the donor because in many cases the affected genes are present for that child in the cord blood. A baby’s cord blood has a 25% chance of being a match to a sibling, because each child shares one of its two HLA genes with each parent. Stem cells from cord blood could possibly play a part in the treatment of one of the parents if both parents share some of the six HLA antigens. Cord blood is primarily used in treating diseases in children. Since only one to 5 ounces are taken from the cord, this limits the number of stem cells present which often isn’t enough to treat most adults.

When choosing to store a baby’s cord blood with a private cord blood bank, make sure the bank is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) for the purpose of handling stem cells.

Public Cord Blood Donation

An option for parents who want to save their child’s cord blood but don’t have any foreseeable medical need or the disposable income to cover collection and storage is to donate the cord blood to a public cord blood bank. There are 30-35 public cord banks around the country as well as the National Cord Blood Inventory (Be the Match – NMDP. Public cord banks are run just like blood banks; the cord blood is available to anyone who needs it and it costs the parents nothing to donate it.

Cord blood donation begins with the same steps as private storage. Collection, health history questions, and testing after collection is all standard. Once the sample is verified to be safe for transplantation, the unit will be tissue typed to be listed on the registry for use. Parent’s and child’s information is kept private – the sample is assigned a number and is listed on the registry using that number.

Ultimately the choice to store, donate or do nothing with a baby’s cord blood rests with the parents and they should make the decision that best suits them.

Banking your baby’s cord blood