Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Potential Lifeline for My Peanut

It’s become more common for expectant moms today to consider saving their newborns cord for stem cell transplants. However, I don’t recall seeing so many advertisements or brochures when my sister was expecting 8 months ago. I think I’ve had a private cord bank representative call me 5 times in the last 2 weeks. I can’t make up my mind and that’s why I’m posting about this, to hear your thoughts on umbilical cord blood banking.

Basically, the cord or placental blood that comes from a newborn baby has all the elements of normal blood, plus a rich supply of stem cells, which are usually found in bone marrow. More and more, cord blood stem cells are increasingly replacing bone marrow in stem cell experimentation. It’s a powerful and potentially life-saving resource for treating a growing number of ailments, including cancer, leukemia, blood, and immune disorders. It has already been used for transplantation in more than 14,000 patients with over 70 life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia. Amazing!!

There are both public cord blood bank facilities (they accept donations that go into a general inventory) & private facilities (banks that store your baby’s cord for family’s own personal use).

But… yes there is always a but… Here are a few catches or downsides and reasons why I’m debating this:
• A 12 million dollar industry, the average cost for saving the baby’s cord is over $2000 to process the cord blood, plus $125 a year for storage. Ouch….In these tough economic and unstable times, it’s A LOT of money to dish out. It’s almost like a biological insurance plan or safety security box.
• 1 cord blood = one transplant. There is a low cell count available through the cord blood, which is about 10% of the cells that an adult bone marrow stem cell collection would have.
• Experts also claim that chances of using the child’s own cord blood are slim and if the child has a genetic disease, it is very likely that traces of that “sick” gene are in the cord blood.

One expert questioned, with a national health insurance plan and stem cell agenda being 2 of the primary topics from the new administration, what if insurance companies possibly considered paying for stem cell storage in the future? Yeah right, maybe in the way distant future, and I wouldn't want to wait around for that to happen.

Of course, there are many upsides to saving your babies cord, and the reason why I’m having such a difficult time making a decision.

1) If my child (the donor) did in fact need a stem cell transplant, he/she wouldn’t have to wait for a donor match.
2) Even more incredible is the fact that the cord blood from the baby can extend beyond the donor, and potentially save the life of a sibling, mom, dad and potentially that of a cousin.
3) The cord blood is rich in stem cells, and for this reason research is showing promise in treatment of brain injury, diabetes, heart failure, spinal cord injuries, stroke, among other...Not to mention that stem cell research is constantly evolving.
4) There are only 16 operating cord bank facilities in the US, so the supply is short –which means a long waiting list.
5) Oh and did I mention that the public banks have an underrepresented cord blood supply for ethnic minorities? As a Hispanic-American, that’s another concern I have as well.

What are your thoughts on this? Would love to hear from parents who have chosen to or against saving their newborn's cord.

Here is an interesting video I thought I’d share with you as well:

Some links to private banks as well, in case you’re looking into it:


  1. It was offered to me with my youngest who is now 3 1/2 years old. I didn't know how much it cost though. I figured it must be expensive. Sorry, I have no clue how to weigh in on this one. On one side, I see the benefits of having it, just in case. On the other side, it seems like borrowing trouble. The good news is, you have plenty of time to make a decision.

  2. Thanks Karen. I really appreciate your input.. It's a tough one, but I definitely have a bit of time to think it over and talk with family about it.

  3. We didn't do it and I don't know if I would do it next time but I feel like if it's not a financial hardship, what's the harm? Do inquire among friends if they have coupons because I remember a few of my friends who banked theirs received coupons of a few hundred dollars off to give to their friends.

    At the very least, you can donate the blood to a bank so SOMEONE gets to use it. The collection kits are free and I think some hospitals will take care of the pickup.

  4. Thanks Danielle. Great tips..and yes, I'm definitely going to donate the blood to a public bank if I don't decide to store it. If there's not fee, I say why not - it could help save a life. That's one of my next 50 questions lined up for my next doc visit next week :o) My doctor always knows I come prepared with a list of questions every time.

  5. I went ahead and did it with both my kids. It was expensive and we really didn't have the extra money to spend, but my husband has a family history of leukemia (his brother,)diabetes (same brother and a sister) and cancer. I think it probably boils down as to whether or not you thing your child is a high risk? I was afraid to take chances, but if there had not been a family history, I might not have even considered it. I would definitely donate it given the number of kids in need of such things and the low percentage of minorities donating. In fact, that is what I hope my kids will do whenever they reach the point that they should decide...

  6. Thanks Monica. I really appreciate your advice. Looking forward to checking out another fellow Latina's blog :o)