Should I bank my baby’s cord blood?

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So babies aren’t the most generous people – they borrow your womb for nine months, then show up TOTALLY NAKED and expect you to take complete care of them. But they do bring one present with them: their umbilical cord blood.

What is cord blood banking?

Cord blood banking is the collection of stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta just after birth. These stem cells (which are different from embryonic stem cells) are frozen and stored at extremely cold temperatures for future medical use.

What are stem cells?

More and more parents are choosing to bank their babies’ umbilical cord blood and tissues due to their richness in stem cells. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can become any number of different types of cells. There are two types of stem cells available at birth: HSCs, found in cord blood, and MSCs, found in umbilical cord and placenta tissue. HSCs are already used to treat about 80 different blood and bone diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, and blood cell disorders. Researchers think that in the future, MSC transplants may treat diabetes, autoimmune diseases (such as lupus, celiac, and rheumatoid arthritis), vascular diseases, serious wounds, and many other conditions. One day, your child’s banked stem cells could prove lifesaving for a vast number of diseases and disorders as the exciting field of regenerative therapy expands.

What are the benefits of banking stem cells?

Although it’s possible to obtain stem cells for transplantation from bone marrow or circulating blood, it can take months to find a compatible donor. In contrast, you can access stem cells stored in a family cord blood bank any time you need them.

Many conditions can be treated with stem cells that come from the individual’s own genetic material. Others require stem cells from a close genetic match, often a sibling. Cord blood stem cells are less likely to cause dangerous immune reactions than stem cells from bone marrow or circulating blood, making less-than-perfect matches possible.

What about the cost?

Cord blood banking can be surprisingly inexpensive—if you choose the right bank. The vast majority of cord blood banks charge annual storage fees, which can end up costing you thousands of dollars over the initial price. Of the top cord blood banks, only Americord gives you 20 years of free storage with no annual fees. Also make sure that no matter which cord blood bank you choose, their lab is accredited by AABB or FACT, and check to see that the bank is affiliated with known leaders in the field and reputable institutions.

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