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Cord blood banking is a hot topic among expecting parents. You want to give your child every advantage. If there’s something you can do now to help your child later, you want to do it. If you’re a first time parent, your instincts are good. But with all of the information about cord blood banking, and the different companies to choose from, it’s hard to understand if cord blood banking is the right thing to do.
When doing your research, it’s helpful to look for scholarly or academic sources. A quick Google search may provide lots of results, but you may also be reading a lot of materials from cord blood companies. To be clear, these materials are not always wrong, but they are biased because these companies are trying to sell a product: cord blood banking.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord Blood Banking is the storage of human umbilical cord blood. Unlike traditional blood banks, most cord blood banks are private storage banks (translation: a company or corporation) rather than public storage banks.
What does a private Cord Blood Bank provide?
Private Cord Blood Banks provide stem cell separation and storage. When a private cord blood bank receives a baby’s cord blood, they separate the stem cells from the blood and store the stem cells. The stem cells are stored cryogenically. (Source)
A private cord blood bank provides you with a guarantee that your child’s “cord blood” (stem cells) will be available exclusively to you and your family, should a future need arise.
What the experts told us
You should also ask your doctor and your child’s future pediatrician for their thoughts. This is anecdotal, but when I asked my doctor and pediatrician, they both advised against cord blood banking. In fact, they both had the same conclusion. They said that the odds of ever needing cord blood were slim. But even if the need arose, a sibling is often the ideal match. And if we were really interested in preserving the cord blood for potential use in the future, we should consider donating to a public cord blood bank.
Before that conversation, I didn’t know public cord blood banks were a thing.
What the online research says
Other experts agree with the AAP
“The odds that the cord blood of any given baby will be needed by that baby later in life are quite small, explained Dr. Steven Joffe, the study’s senior author and a pediatric oncologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School. One reason is that for many of the conditions where a blood cell transplant is the answer, a patient’s own blood cells can not be used, because they would reintroduce the disease you are trying to cure. A sibling donor is almost always ideal, but in most cases, that sibling is still alive and available as a donor, so banked blood is not needed.” (Source: “Is Banked Cord Blood Worth It?” The New York Times)
What is the cord blood banking cost?
If you decide to donate to a public cord blood bank, cord blood banking is free.
If you decide to use a private cord blood bank, costs vary. The average upfront cost is between $1,000 and $3,000. It is not covered by health insurance. You must pay a storage fee, annually, for the cord blood. The fee is anywhere from $90 to $175 per year.
For argument’s sake, let’s say you get the best “deal” possible on cord blood banking.
$1,000 initial investment + $90 per year for life
The average American lives to age 78.74. We’ll round up to 79, since the annual fee is due at the beginning of the year. But we’ll also assume that the initial $1,000 includes the annual fee for year one.
The bare minimum for private cord blood banking, over a lifetime, is $8,020.
You may think that’s a great deal. But just for educational purposes, let’s say you open a savings account for your child at birth and each year $90 is deposited. Over time, it could look like this:
Or even this:
We show you this to illustrate the opportunity cost and time value of money for cord blood storage.
What if I don’t store my child’s cord blood?
The good news: privately banked cord blood is rarely used as treatment. You are more likely to get a public cord blood donation to help you. Think of it this way: if you need a blood transfusion, you don’t donate your blood and freeze it in hopes that you may use it later. You rely on public blood banks.
It’s a personal choice. But since the AAP does not support private cord banks, my personal opinion would be not to use a private cord bank.