How well do you know your banks?

Suggested ad (Americord)

Your baby’s umbilical cord blood is filled with valuable stem cells with life-changing medical potential, but how to make use of this cord blood isn’t so cut and dry. Parents have three choices about what to do with that cord blood after birth: 1) Let it be discarded as medical waste, 2) donate it to a public cord blood bank, or 3) preserve it in a private cord blood bank.

There are pros and cons to both public and private banks. Public banks collect donated cord blood for research or for use by anyone who needs it, and there is usually no charge for this service. If you donate cord blood to a public bank, it may very well someday save a life.

But there are real problems with public cord blood banks – for one thing, there aren’t enough of them. It’s expensive to process and store cord blood, and funding isn’t adequate to make this possible on a large scale. Because of this, there are fewer than 200 hospitals in the U.S. that accept cord blood for donation, and they’re found in only about half of the 50 states. And if you do decide to donate, you need to make arrangements early—before your 34th week of pregnancy.

So there’s a good chance that, even if you would like to donate your baby’s cord blood, you’ll be unable to do so.

Bear in mind, too, that if any genetic abnormalities or infectious diseases are found in your baby’s cord blood, it won’t be used. About 60-80% of all cord blood donated to public cord blood banks is discarded.

Finally, because cord blood donations are made anonymous in public banks, you will not be able to locate and access your baby’s cord blood, should you need it.

With all the limitations of public banks, it’s not surprising that today the vast majority of banked cord blood samples are in family banks. When you save your baby’s cord blood privately, it’s quickly accessible and available to your family alone. The stem cells you bank are a genetic match to your baby and may be a close or perfect match to your other children, and private cord blood collection can take place virtually anywhere.

What’s the downside? In a word: cost. Apart from the initial fee, the vast majority of private cord blood banks charge annual fees for storage, which can add up to many thousands of dollars over the years. Americord is a family cord blood bank that breaks the mold of annual storage fees, providing free cord blood storage for no less than 20 years.

In a perfect world, your family will be as healthy as can be, and you’ll never need to use the stem cells you have banked. However, banking your baby’s cord blood stem cells privately gives your children a safety net (and one that is constantly expanding with new research) in the event that everything doesn’t go swimmingly. Cord blood stem cells shouldn’t be at the front of your mind, and neither should paying for their storage.

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