Nov 11, 2009 Post By: Children's Health

Cord Blood Banking

The minute I found out I was pregnant, I started receiving mail from diaper companies, portrait studios, kids' furniture stores. I think my mailman knew I was pregnant before my husband did!

The cord blood banks were pretty quick to identify me as a new target, too. The brochures featured sweet little wrinkly newborns and emotional stories that seeped in to places where my hormones already ran amuck. Parents in these glossy ads told me "a cord blood transplant saved my child's life."

Surely, if I were a good mother, I would want to bank my newborn's cord blood, too, right? But, goodness, have you seen how much that costs?!

I hated feeling like a bad mother for putting a price tag on my unborn baby's future health, so I asked Dr. Paul Harker-Murray, a physician in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's, about the pros and cons of cord blood banking - minus the marketing hype.

Bottom line, he told me that cord blood banking is good. Cord blood can be used to treat a few rare diseases and disorders, and it holds promise for research in to other illnesses. But, he also told me, not only as a cancer doctor, but as a father, that he did not and would not pay to privately bank his own children's cord blood.

Did you even know there was a choice? There are private cord blood banks - probably the ones that have sent you brochures in the mail - that, for a fee, reserve your baby's cord blood for only your family's use. Then there are public banks that store cord blood for any child who needs it. They provide this service free of charge. Hmmm...who knew? I guess it's because public banks don't have the advertising budgets that private, for-profit banks do.

Dr. Harker-Murray explained the likelihood of your child using his own cord blood is almost zero. But, if you bank it publicly, any child in need can benefit from the lifesaving properties in his cord blood, just like any person could benefit from the pint of blood you donated at the last community blood drive. (I bet you never thought to ask if the nice people at the blood drive would save your blood for you, just in case you ever need it.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports free, public banking, too.

But, don't take Dr. Harker-Murray's or the AAP's word for it. This is a hot topic and a big decision. Do some research on your own, as well.

Not all hospitals have an affiliation with a public cord blood bank, so, if you decide to publicly bank your baby's cord blood for free, it requires a little legwork before the end of your 34th week of pregnancy.

I downloaded the necessary paperwork from Cryobanks International (this company also banks privately) and talked with my OB/GYN about collecting the cord blood after she delivers little Ellyson. The next step - the company will send me a kit to take to the hospital when the big day arrives. (We're down to one month and counting!)

My OB/GYN said I was the very first person to ask her about public cord banking. I truly hope I won't be the last.