The biggest decision to make for your family

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Surely you’ve got a lot of big questions to consider before baby is born. Cloth or disposable diapers? Breastfeeding, formula, or something in between? While every decision is important for your baby, there’s one big decision you need to make as soon as possible: whether to bank your baby’s cord blood.

1.) Will you need it?

Cord blood banking saves your baby’s unique and valuable stem cells for possible medical use later. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can transform into just about any type of cell found in the body. Currently it’s estimated that 1 in 300 people will need regenerative therapy using stem cells during their lifetime, but those odds will probably become likelier as stem cell therapy takes off.

2.) Public or private banking?

Families have two options when deciding where to bank their stem cells: public banks or private ones. Public cord blood banks are usually free, but there are problems with them. Most hospitals in the U.S. don’t accept cord blood for donation. If you are able to donate to a public bank, your cord blood will be made anonymous and you won’t be able to access it later if you need it.

Private banks, like Americord, contain most of the stored cord blood in this country. They allow quick access to your baby’s cord blood if you ever need it, and it is available to you and your family alone. If you choose to save cord blood privately, it can be collected virtually anywhere. Private banks charge a fee, but depending on the bank, the cost doesn’t need to be exorbitant.

3.) HSC, MSC, or both?

There are two types of stem cells available at birth: HSCs, plentiful in umbilical cord blood, and MSCs, found in umbilical cord and placenta tissue. HSCs are being used right now to treat about 80 different bone and blood diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and anemia. An HSC transfusion replaces diseased cells and helps to replenish blood supply with fresh, healthy cells. MSCs are being investigated in hundreds of clinical trials worldwide. Researchers are excited about their potential to treat many different diseases and disorders, from diabetes and autoimmune diseases to vascular disorders and serious wounds.

4.) Do you have a history of disease?

Everyone should consider banking their baby’s cord blood and tissues, but it’s especially important for people with a family history of disease. People of minority or mixed race origin may also find it difficult to find compatible donors, so they too should seriously consider banking their baby’s stem cells.

If medical need arises, your child may be treated with his or her own stem cells or with those of a close relation, such as a sibling. You may never need to use your banked stem cells—and let’s hope you don’t. But if you do, they can be a life saving therapeutic option.

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