Umbilical cord blood – to bank OR not to bank?

images_piggybankThe 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?



9 thoughts on “Umbilical cord blood – to bank OR not to bank?

  1. Hi Jill: As I am sure you know from Matt, we did it with Nicolas. When I was pregnant with Allison it was fairly new and my OBGYN told me that he didn’t think we needed to do it, but then with Nicolas, he knew more about it and said that if I was his wife he would do it. It is a bit costly but Matt and I decided that “what if” was definately worth it. We were told that not only could it be used for Nicolas but also family members if needed (god forbid) but then again look at me. When my kids were born there was never any thought that years later that I would be diagnosed with MS. Who knows maybe as the years of research go on, I might be able to use it. I think you should definately research the different companies (we used viacord) but if it is a reputable one they should know what they are doing and you should have no problems with the baby. It is definately a personal decision that you and Corey need to make but like I said we did it and have no regrets so far. Hope that helps:)

  2. Hey Jill, Love your longlean Mama website! As a Bradley teacher, I gave out lots of info on cord blood collection and I had a pediatician come in to talk to my couples about it, pros & cons. It was always a controversial subject and I just supplied the information. I’d say my couples split on it 50/50. I was pleased to read on your blog about the umblical cord and not cut it until it stops pulsating. That was another important topic in Bradley class and it always amazed me how many ob’s were against it.; Dr. Bradley was way ahead of his time and many ob’s have still not caught up. It’s great you are sharing such important information. It really needs to get out there.
    Keep up the good work, I am proud of you!!

    • Thanks Denise!! Please forward this on to anyone you know that might find it helpful. In this blog, I will continue to discuss controversial topics like cord blood banking.

  3. Also, there was a study out of UCSF regarding the cost effectiveness of cord blood banking. Net: not cost effective. However the study did not consider future discoveries and they quoted the lowest price as about $1000 higher than the lowest available.
    So, if you can find cord blood banking, not for $3500 but for $2000, would you do it? has a price chart and shows which ones don’t charge annual storage fees. and they all have gift registries where friends and family can contribute, rather than buy you yet another layette.
    Just some more points to consider, I guess. It’s the future possibilities that get me….

    • Thank you for your comments. Cost is definitely not the issue. As mentioned in my post, although I think its expensive I am willing to overlook cost if it was best for our child and family. However, due to the additional information I have uncovered including not knowing how long the samples are good for and depriving my baby of the blood at birth, I don’t think the <1% chance of using the stored cord blood is worth it. Sure none of us know what the future holds and something could happen, which may make us feel guilty, cheap or irresponsible if we don't sign up. That's one of the biggest selling points for CBR, ViaCord and the rest of them…a huge play on our emotions.

  4. One of the best things I’m learning through motherhood is that my children are people now, not just in the future and that affects what decisions I make for their well being right now. I would definitely leave the cord until it has stopped pulsating and leave cutting it for as long as reasonably possible.

    For me it’s very much about taking the right decision for their wellbeing now, strongly based on wide research and then following my gut instinct. My daughter taught me early on through some health issues she had after birth that a mother’s intuition is more important than “expert” opinion. The medical community were shepherding me down a route that felt wrong at a deep level but I was going along with it because my logic told me I didn’t know as much as they did.

    I took a stand, did what my instinct was telling me was the right action, found resources that supported my instinct and my daughter’s health improved almost overnight and she began to thrive for the first time since birth. It was a big lesson for me and one I’m grateful for as I now turn to my inner knowing easily and trust myself.

    I recognise the benefits of modern medicine and it has its place, often a very welcome place, but I also recognise that the medical industry is an industry and does have a profit motive and is also very much focused on pathology and fear-based “what ifs”. Parenthood needn’t be.

    I respect your research and effort in looking into the options and then making a decision based on what’s true for you, irrespective of what others think. [Even if you change your mind again.]

    I’m excited to keep hearing about the end of your pregnancy and entry into motherhood.

  5. I found it interesting that many of the issues “treated” with cord blood are the very ones that can be created by cord clamping too soon. Of course I am not saying in every case. I also found it interesting that many of the samples are too small to even be utilized in the first place.

  6. I recently found this interview that I thought you and others reading this post would find interesting:

    Cord Blood Banking, Vaccination and Mainstream Influence: What Every Parent and Parent-to-be Should Know

    I’m sure you must be a mama by now (it’s 3.5 weeks past that 40 week mark today). I hope it was the birth you hoped for, empowering and beautiful, whatever form it took and that you are deeply ensconced in your bonding time with your precious new family member.

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