Should You Store Your Baby's Cord Blood?

Whether you're about to become a first-time parent or are rounding out your family with the birth of your last child, you may find yourself marveling over the number of biological and technological innovations that have been developed over the last few years, from delayed cord clamping to cord blood banking. With these innovations often comes controversy; you may find it difficult to find an objective analysis of the benefits and potential drawbacks of each of your options to help you make the most well-informed decision. Is banking your infant's cord blood a good idea? Read on to learn more about some of the arguments in favor of banking your infant's cord blood or placental tissue, as well as a few factors you'll want to consider when deciding whether this is the right choice for your baby. 

Why bank cord blood? 

The popularity of cord blood banking has taken off in recent years as researchers find more and more unique uses for stem cells. These precious cells are essentially blank slates, capable of developing into any type of organ or tissue, which makes them invaluable in the context of an autoimmune disease or other medical issue that requires removal or repair of certain tissues. 

Rather than relying on donor tissue or organs (and risking rejection), doctors whose patients have banked their own cord blood are able to use stem cells that have already been imprinted with the patient's specific genetic information, essentially eliminating the risk of rejection and improving the odds of overall success. 

The blood that passes through the umbilical cord to the placenta is rich in stem cells, helping boost your baby's immune system both before and just after birth. Because of the high proportion of stem cells in the umbilical cord, as well as the relatively non-controversial nature of cord blood as a source of stem cells (as compared to fetal tissue or other biological tissues), cord blood is a key source of stem cells for many families facing a medical crisis. 

What should you consider when deciding your own path?

In most cases, the only real disadvantage to cord blood banking is cost. Even if you don't ever find a need for your cord blood, having it available can literally be a lifesaver if your child is diagnosed with something like leukemia or sickle cell anemia at a young age. As long as you're comfortable with the cost of the initial cord blood "deposit" and any continuing fees, you probably won't find any arguments against the wisdom of cord blood banking as a type of insurance (albeit a non-traditional one). 

However, there are a few caveats to this. First, you'll want to ensure that any cord blood bank you select has strict privacy controls and is open about what (if anything) will happen to your cord blood if you discover you no longer need it. While you may wish to donate this cord blood for research purposes if possible, if you'd rather it be disposed of or destroyed, the last thing you want is to realize you signed an agreement permitting the storage facility to sell or even give away your baby's cord blood once you no longer wanted to keep it. 

You'll also want to carefully look over any fee arrangement to ensure there aren't hidden costs. You may assume you're signing what looks like a good deal, only to later realize that there are regular "rent" increases on this cord blood each year that will eventually render storage cost-prohibitive. 

However, as long as you're diligent about researching your selected facility and the details of this transaction, you're likely to find that banking your baby's cord blood takes away one of the many worries of being a new parent.