The birth of my first child is upon me (7 more weeks!) and with that comes ALL SORTS of preparation, planning and decisions. One of the decisions that has become quite an emotional/mental battle for my husband and me is: should we bank our baby’s cord blood after birth?
For those of you who don’t know, cord blood banking is storing the baby’s cord blood for her own future use or use for a family member should it be necessary. It has become more and more popular in recent years as umbilical cord blood consists of stem cells that research has found can be used in transplants to treat a variety of pediatric disorders including leukemia, sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders. There are a number of for-profit private cord blood banking companies out there that offer this service.
Being extremely curious and wanting to do what’s best for our baby, over the last couple of months I have spoken to a few of these companies to learn more. In all of my conversations, I have been told about all of the amazing, ground-breaking research and what these precious stems cells can do. I was told to think of it as “biological insurance”; insurance that, in the off chance she may need a transplant, may save her life. How can one argue that??? Then the cost….the cost to collect and store the cord blood runs about $1500-2000 in the 1st yr and ~$100 every year for up to 21 yrs. OMG, EXPENSIVE…especially when I just finished putting together a list of what we need to buy to prepare for her arrival!!! BUT, we kept telling ourselves its only a few thousand dollars…isn’t protecting our child worth it??? So, I signed us up.
But then over the last few weeks, more and more conversations started to take place – with my OB, with my husband’s doctor, with family members and friends who are health care professionals – all telling us they wouldn’t or didn’t do it and/or don’t think we should do it. Then on top of that, we learned about risks associated with early umbilical cord clamping/cutting and not allowing the umbilical cord to “stop pulsating”. After the baby is born, the attached “pulsating” umbilical cord is still feeding your baby iron rich blood. When a pulsating umbilical cord is clamped or cut too soon, up to 20-60% of the baby’s total blood volume may be left behind in the placenta. In order to get a good sample for cord blood banking, they must clamp/cut the cord prior to it finishing pulsating. So, my research continued…
Here is what I found:
- Pregnant women should be aware that stem cells from cord blood cannot currently be used to treat inborn errors of metabolism or other genetic diseases in the same individual from which they were collected because the cord blood would have the same genetic mutation. – ACOG
- Patients need to be aware that the chances are remote that the stem cells from their baby’s banked cord blood will be used to treat that same child—or another family member—in the future. Some experts estimate this likelihood at 1 in 2,700, while others argue the rate is 1 in 200,000
- Research is still being done to determine how long cord blood samples can be stored and still be viable
- Studies have found that babies who had their cords cut after they stopped pulsating had better stores of iron in the blood, which results in a reduced risk of developing anemia in the first few months of life.
The burning question…Should we elect to have the stem cells stored for the off chance that she may need them in the future, assuming they will even be usable, or do we let her have these precious nutrients passed to her at birth so that she may have a healthier and stronger start to life? The body is designed to transfer the blood to the baby after birth, why interrupt this natural process? Why take nutrients away from her for a less than 1% chance we may use them for her or someone else in our family in the future? After weighing all the pros and cons, we have chosen not to go forward with cord blood banking. What would you do?