Should you bank on cord blood?

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: July 10th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The advertisements make it sound like preserving blood from your newborn’s umbilical cord is a necessary investment in your child’s health. But more and more doctors are questioning whether storing blood at a private cord blood bank is really a wise idea.

The trend began in the mid-nineteen-nineties, when more than two dozen private banks formed. They seek to persuade parents to store the blood just in case it’s needed to treat a serious illness. Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used during transplants or to treat various blood cancers.

There is widespread support for public cord-blood banking. It’s the private aspect that gives many medical experts pause.

It typically costs about fifteen-hundred dollars or more to store blood taken from a baby’s umbilical cord and placenta. But a new study that surveyed ninety-three pediatric transplant physicians in the United States and Canada suggests it’s not worth the money.

Collectively, the doctors had performed thousands of stem cell transplants for childhood leukemia and other illnesses. However, they only reported using privately banked blood for fifty procedures.

While stem cell transplants using cord blood can be beneficial, medical experts say they do have some limitations. In some cases, the blood can’t be used because it may contain malignant or otherwise damaged cells.

Still, some parents adhere to the motto “better safe than sorry.” Although privately banked cord blood may not be widely used now, there’s no telling what uses physicians might find for it in the future.