Is Cord Blood Banking Worth It?

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There are so many decisions to make as a pregnant woman. They go well beyond what maternity jeans look best and will stretch out until 40 weeks. Early in my pregnancy, I quickly signed up for a few parenthood websites. As soon as I released my e-mail into the abyss, my inbox filled up with cord blood banking offers. Descriptions of saving my baby’s stem cells sounded like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. The ads seemed to promise a cure-all. Initially, my husband and I were sold. Why wouldn’t we spend the extra couple thousand at birth to help ensure life long health for my baby and possibly other family members as well? After receiving literally over 50 emails about cord blood banking over the course of my pregnancy, I became a little curious at all the top-notch marketing. What are stem cells and how can they help my baby? Who does the cord blood banking and does it actually work? Is there really a benefit?

The National Institutes of Health states, “given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potentials for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.” If you read further about the possibilities of stem cells, it sounds like the building blocks for some sort of future 3D human printing machine.

Nonetheless, further research led me to this video which answered the rest of my questions:

The video talks about how if an individual is in need of live-saving stem cells from certain rare illnesses, there are public stem cell banks where a match can be found in nearly 95% of cases. So basically in most cases, scientists could dip into the public stem cell bank and find a match. Also, if a person is born with certain types of illnesses, their own stem cells can’t be used anyways.

Aside from the questionable benefits of private blood banking,  there’s debate about the storing cord blood if it requires early cord clamping at birth. Respected midwife Rachel Reed posts about the specifics of how cord blood is drawn and what it requires on her blog Midwife Thinking. It sounds like it’s more beneficial to allow all the blood from the cord to enter the baby at the time of birth so the baby receives as much iron as possible. She mentions that blood can potentially be drawn from delayed clamping, however most doctors are reluctant to wait 15 minutes in order to allow the blood to drain after birth. In addition, there is a possibility that not enough blood is collected in the case of delayed cord clamping.

My husband and I spent a month or so doing our research in order to weigh our options. The truly annoying thing about making parenthood decisions is that nothing is black and white. Do we spend the $2,000 upfront for the potential that our child would be that 5% of people that can’t find a match in a public bank? Do we make an investment in scientific breakthrough that has yet to be reached? In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth it for us. We ended up using the money towards ice cream and beer. (Kidding and not kidding :p)


Links referenced:

Disclaimer: This blog’s aim is to stimulate thinking and to share alternative information on birth and parenthood. The posts are personal views. They do not intend to provide medical advice or recommendations for individuals.

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Founder at Dymin Collective
Mindy Song is a mother of one, a video artist, and musician from Orange, CA. She is an advocate of social justice with interests in globalization, socio-economics, and the history of women’s rights in developing nations. By day she is a marketing specialist for a dental imaging company, milk pumper, and wannabe supermom. By night she is an asian fusion chef, art critic, and blogger.
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