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April 23rd, 2008
12:19 PM ET

To save or not to save?

By Caleb Hellerman
Senior Medical Producer

Having a baby is stressful. Even the third time around, there's a room to prepare and clothes to pull from storage ("My God, those are tiny!"); there's the actual birth (my wife does the heavy lifting) and there are siblings to reassure: "Why does the baby get to sleep in your bed?"  This month, my wife and I wrestled with another tough question: Should we sign up for cord blood banking?

Unless you're a relatively new parent, this begs explanation.  The blood from a baby's umbilical cord is rich in stem cells, the versatile cells that could eventually play a role in treating countless diseases.  Already they can be used to treat childhood leukemia, sickle cell anemia and a few other devastating conditions.  Stem cells from cord blood are considered especially useful, for their versatility in treatment and because they're untainted by the outside environment.

Your doctor may be able to get stem cells through a public bank – but the odds of finding a genetic match are much better with cells from a family member, or, better yet, yourself. The stem cells from our newborn's cord would be a perfect match for him, and could probably help his brother or sister, too.

So why not give it a shot? For one thing, as the glossy brochure points out, it costs almost $2,000, not to mention another $125 a year for storage.  We're fortunate in that we can even consider writing a check that big, and it doesn't come with a guarantee – at this point many promised stem cell therapies are still just theoretical.

With my first son and daughter, we donated the cord blood to a public bank.  But this time, in the end, we bit the bullet and signed up. The kit for the hospital is sitting on the counter by the phone, next to my wife’s toothbrush.

Is banking your baby's cord blood a good idea? What's the toughest medical decision you ever made as a parent? 

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. stayj

    My husband and I are expecting our first child in August, and we discussed cord blood banking with my doctor. My doctor is very opposed to the private banks. She said they are not regulated and there is absolutely no guarantee, even with the thousands of dollars spent on storage, that the cord blood would be usable a few years down the line if it's needed.

    We're looking into donating to a public bank instead.

    April 23, 2008 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Amanda

    What people don't realize about cord blood banking is that for most cases, it's only good if the donor doesn't get sick. If the donor gets sick (and let's suppose sick with one of the diseases that are treatable with cord blood), then odds are that the cord blood carries the disease as well (either in the form of blood stem cells that carry a strong genetic susceptibility to disease or the full-blown disease itself). Thus, there is no sense banking cord blood for the donor's personal use. It is however very beneficial to the family and society because if ***someone else*** gets sick then a ***healthy**** donor's cord blood can be used to treat that other person. This is why people should donate to public banks.

    April 23, 2008 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Bonita Geary

    Here's an easy answer: YES! Spend the money! Here's an easy reason: my experience with healthcare costs. I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 12. I am now 50. Less than 100 years ago, a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence. Now, there are many hi-tech ways (and still some low-tech ways) of treating diabetes. For example, for the first 10 years I had diabetes, I could never get a real-time, even ballpark idea of what my blood sugar was. I would go to the lab, blood would be drawn from my arm, and a week later the doctor would call me and tell me what my blood sugar had been a week before! Now people with diabetes have a conveniently small machine that can tell them their blood sugar (from a finger prick) within 5 seconds!
    Even with all the advances in the treatment of diabetes, the cost of this desease is outrageously high. There are medications, syringes, glucose test strips, doctor visits, lab work and on and on. When the cost of potential complications from this cruel disease are added in, over a lifetime it could bankrupt all but the wealthiest families. Consider the costs of kidney dialysis and/or a kidney transplant, blindness, heart disease, complicated pregnancies, erectile dysfunction, joint pain and limited range of motion, painful nerve endings, circulation problems, or even all the problems that are not a direct result of diabetes but occur more frequently in people with diabetes: depression, thyroid problems, duputreyn's syndrome (which occurs in alcoholics or diabetics, and very few others), and many other mental and physical problems. Considering that people with diabetes are living to be much older now than over the past 50 years with the help of all the advancements in treatment, complications are happening more frequently.
    If a small amount of cord blood could cure a family member of this disease, would there be any question that it was worth the cost of collecting and banking it for as many years as it takes? Just do it, and don't look back. It's the best investment you could possibly make in your family's health and well being.

    April 24, 2008 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sally

    We decided to privately bank because of various reasons. The main one is that if you do the research like we did, you will find out that the old treatments using the cells only helped others. I will admit, it was not easy to do the research as we get used to finding everything on the internet, yet much of what we found was in medical journals not published online. Now, many of the treatments do help the child in itself and for some conditions, the child could only use its own. We are glad we did it and it has been since validated by watching success stories on NBC's today show where a child was cured of cerebral palsy using his own cells.

    As for the post we saw before about the companies not being regulated, I dont know what their dr. was looking at, but these companies are regulated by the AABB and the FDA depending on the company.

    April 24, 2008 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laura Tank

    As a regulatory affairs expert with Cord Blood Registry (CBR), the largest and most experienced stem cell bank in the world, I want to assure readers that the family (private) banking industry is strictly regulated by both state and federal agencies, including the FDA. CBR was the first cord blood bank to receive accreditation from the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) for the specialized processing of cord blood stem cells and we take full responsibility to ensure that the processing, quality-control, and quality-assurance metrics are in accordance with the AABB.

    We at CBR are also proud to say that all of our collections released for medical treatment have been viable for use. In one transplant case, we released a young girl’s cord blood stem cells for transplant use that had been stored at our facility for more than 9 years. Having access to a high quality-processed sample of her own cells gave doctors the ability to cure her aplastic anemia.

    April 24, 2008 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ratna, New York, NY

    Yes! If you can afford it financially, cord blood banking is very important! My question is about the finances: in case the cord blood stemcells are used for research, would you get re-imburst for it. How far in the future will you be able to put down the $125 annually?

    April 24, 2008 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Steph

    Yes I think You Should Save Your cord blood. So one if your child gets sick and needs it but if it is a match to or your wife or kids or family mebers and they need it you have it.

    April 24, 2008 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Evan P.

    In our recent blog post, we spoke about the possibility of using a baby's cord blood to treat his or her own cerebral palsy. There are clinical trials currently taking place at Duke University and twelve children are currently undergoing the procedure, including Dallas, 2, who seems to have really benefited from it.

    Read the Full post here:
    http://blog.birthinjuries.org/2008/04/can-childs-umbilical-cord-blood-be-used-to-treat-his-own-cerebral-palsy/

    April 28, 2008 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. babyboomerqueen

    Stem cells can save...find someone who can save them and go for it!

    Do not let the Church and government tell you different.

    Remember, they didn't used to think the earth was round!
    By the time (God FORBID! ) your child needs them, there will be better science and leaps in the stem cell arena.

    I have Lupus and have had all of my life. I was just misdiagnosed...but think what it could have been for me if they had stem cells back then. I would still be able to dance, run and many other things I am not able to do any more.

    Save lives and save stem cells!

    Southern smiles and world peace,
    Sharon
    ~The Baby Boomer Queen~
    BabyBoomerAdvisorClub.com

    May 5, 2008 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Michelle

    I say if you can do it, then do it.

    The toughest decision I ever made as a parent was having to stop treatment for my son, who was terminally ill, when he was fourteen months old, because there was no cure or successful treatment for what he had, and he was given, at the maximum, three years to live. The survival rate for his disease was zero.

    Would a sibling or relative's, or even a stranger's, cord blood have saved him? Probably not at this time, but it might save your child, or someone else's once there is enough research, and enough results. In the meantime, save the blood. I have a lot of faith. You never know....

    May 12, 2008 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tyler

    I wish getting over a broken heart can be so easy as following a few steps.. but its not 😦

    June 26, 2009 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Zak Fisher

    my grandfather is also a baby boomer and he is also a war veteran'~"

    July 11, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jesus Ross

    my grandfather is a baby boomer and i am quite proud of his longevity all these years.,`

    August 29, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Lucy Robinson

    my grandfather is a baby boomer too, he is very old now but he is the best grand daddy;-'

    October 10, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cadman

    It is Wonderful! Thanks a ton.

    October 16, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.