Ballpark Estimate: $2,500 to $4,000
If you’re planning to have a baby any time soon, deciding on a great name for your child isn’t the only major decision you will have to make in the days, weeks and months leading up to the birth. Today, many expectant parents have an even bigger, and much more serious, choice on their minds: deciding whether it is worth the investment to collect their infant’s umbilical cord blood and store it in a private cord blood bank as “insurance” in case the child, or even a sibling, should develop a life-threatening illness in the future.
Benefits of Cord Blood
The latest research shows that blood collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord is rich in stem cells that can generate new blood and tissue. This means that a child who develops cancer or some other serious disease and is in need of a bone marrow transplant can opt to receive a transfusion of his or her own healthy stem cells (or a donation of stem cells from another donor), which will then form new blood cells and ultimately boost his or her immune system.
An Emotional Debate
The topic of privately banking infant cord blood has been the root of much serious debate and raises many ethical decisions as many parents struggle to decide whether to be swayed by emotionally gripping ads that play on their fears that their child could someday be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Proponents of private cord blood banks explain that in such a case, the child could benefit from having his or her own personal blood supply safely stored away. The reasoning is that this guarantees that he or she will have a match in blood type. In addition, people in favor of private cord blood banks say that siblings often can also use the stem cells from a brother or sister’s cord blood, since this will have a better chance of being a match than an anonymous donation, furthering the benefits of banking a supply.
On the flip side, people who oppose private banking of cord blood explain that the odds of a child’s developing a condition where they will need a transplant using their own blood is low (estimates range anywhere from a 1 in 1,000 chance to 1 in 200,000), so the cost to collect and store the blood is an unnecessary expense, and one that many parents can’t afford anyway. In addition, there is no guarantee that the blood type will be a match for a sibling. Further, children who do later develop an immune disease often have had the disease in their blood since birth, meaning that their supply would not be appropriate to use in such a case as it would be reintroducing the condition into their system.
One thing that both sides of the debate do agree on, though, is that privately storing cord blood does make sense when there is a sibling in the family that currently has a disease or condition where a transplant of the stem cells could be beneficial. Then the potential benefits clearly outweigh the expense.
Process of Collecting Cord Blood
Parents must make the decision to collect the cord blood about six weeks before the baby’s due date. At that time, they register with a private cord blood bank and receive a special collection kit that the delivery team can use for the sample. The procedure is done at the time of a baby’s delivery, usually just before the placenta is delivered. The process is generally simple and routine, and typically poses little risk for the mother or baby, although complications can occasionally occur. When a caesarean section is performed, the procedure can still be done, but there is usually a smaller supply of blood available. Either way, the cord blood that is collected is transported by bags or syringes to the cord blood bank’s facility. There, the stem cells are separated out and are frozen in liquid nitrogen to be stored until they are needed. (It is important to note that there is no consensus as to up what age a child could effectively use the stem cells from their own cord blood, but it is known that the amount usually stored would only be appropriate to use for a child or young adult and would not be enough for a full transplant for an adult.)
Costs Involved Using a Cord Blood Bank
There are as many as 25 or more private cord blood banks in the United States today, and the costs for their services vary. Most private cord blood banks charge a collection and processing fee for accepting the cord blood supply into their facility, and then there is usually an annual storage fee as well. Some cord blood banks request payment up front for the collection and set-up fees, while others offer payment plans. In addition, some companies promote discounts for parents who prepay the cord blood storage costs up front. There are also various miscellaneous fees for delivery or shipping, for cord blood collection kits and for initial set-up of an account that might be added into the total bill, depending on the bank. It is also worth mentioning that it is not yet known how long the cord blood can be safely stored.
The average cost of a private cord blood bank for a newborn’s cord blood is as follows:
- Initial collection or set-up fee: between $1,200 and $1,900
- Shipping or delivering cord blood to the storage facility: from no cost up to $150
- Annual cord blood storage charge: between $95 and $125 per year
Summary: $2,530 to $3,800 to store your infant’s cord blood for 14 years.
What to Look for in a Private Cord Blood Bank
If you decide you want to invest the money to store your infant’s cord blood, it is important to select a reputable company.Cost For Cord Blood Bank You can do a search on line to read about the cord blood banks you are considering and see what other parents who have used their services have to say. You should also find out how long the company has been in business, how many clients they have and what accreditations they hold. The FDA regulates private cord blood banks, as do several states. In addition, a handful of private organizations also offer accreditation. You might also ask what standards the company follows in collecting and storing the cord blood supply. Finally, it is worthwhile to find what will be done with your child’s cord blood if the company ever goes out of business or you miss an annual storage payment.
Another Option: Public Cord Blood Banks
If you choose not to pay for privately banking your infant’s cord blood, the good news is that you can still opt to save the stem-cell-rich cord blood at a public cord blood bank, which is usually free of charge. This will allow the sample to be used for important research and also to be made available to anyone who needs it. While at a public cord blood bank you won’t be able to request your own newborn’s cord blood, but it does mean that there is at least an anonymous supply to turn to if a need should arise for any of your children. This fact should give all parents who choose not to privately bank their child’s cord blood some real peace of mind.