Is it worth it to store cord blood?

Cord blood banking involves collecting the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after birth and storing it for potential future medical use. But is it really worth the cost? Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons:

Pros of Cord Blood Banking

Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that can be used to treat some diseases. Stem cells have the ability to develop into other cell types, like red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. They can be used to treat genetic disorders, cancers and blood disorders. Private cord blood banks allow you to store your baby’s cord blood for potential use later if your child or another family member develops a condition that could benefit from a stem cell transplant. Research is ongoing into other possible uses for cord blood stem cells, so storing the cord blood gives you potential access to advancements in treatments down the road.

Cons of Cord Blood Banking

The upfront cost of private cord blood banking ranges from $1,000-$2,000. Then you have to pay an annual storage fee as long as you want the blood stored, which costs around $100-$175 per year. Public donation of cord blood is free. The likelihood that the average person would use their stored cord blood later in life is estimated to be about 1 in 2,700. And cord blood stem cells have a limited shelf life – most private banks guarantee stored units for 20 years. So you have to weigh the high upfront and maintenance costs against the small chance you would ever actually use the cord blood.

Who Might Benefit Most from Private Cord Blood Banking?

Families with a known genetic disorder have a higher chance of benefiting from cord blood banking. Siblings of a child with a disease treatable by stem cell transplant could potentially use the cord blood. Ethnic minorities and mixed race families also have a higher statistical chance of finding a match if they need their cord blood for treatment later on. Here are some other factors that can make cord blood banking more worthwhile:

  • You have a family history of diseases treatable by stem cell transplants, like leukemia, lymphoma and immune deficiencies
  • You have a large family, giving more possibilities for finding a match if cord blood is needed for siblings
  • You can afford the upfront and annual costs more comfortably

Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banking

Instead of paying to store your baby’s cord blood in a private bank, you can donate it to a public bank. This allows your donation to be available to anyone in need of a transplant, but the cord blood would no longer be reserved just for your family’s use. Public banks are a great option if you want to donate but don’t want to pay the high cost of private banking. The chance of a person’s donated cord blood being used to help a matched recipient is estimated to be about 1 in 200,000.

How Cord Blood Banking Works

Cord blood collection takes place immediately after birth. After the umbilical cord is cut, blood is collected from the cord and placenta. It does not interfere with the birthing process at all. The blood is drawn into a collection bag and then shipped to the cord blood bank. Testing and processing are done to extract and store the blood stem cells for future use. The cells are then cryogenically preserved at extremely low temperatures.

Using Your Stored Cord Blood

If a condition arises later where someone in your family could benefit from a stem cell transplant, the bank thaws and releases the cord blood unit. It is shipped overnight to the transplant facility. The stem cells in the cord blood are administered to the patient intravenously, just like a blood transfusion. The cells then find their way to the bone marrow and begin creating healthy new blood cells.

Cord Blood Treatment Uses

Here are some examples of diseases currently treatable with cord blood stem cell transplants:

  • Leukemias: Acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Lymphomas: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphomas
  • Inherited metabolic disorders: Hurler syndrome, Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome
  • Bone marrow failure syndromes: Aplastic anemia, Fanconi anemia
  • Immunodeficiency disorders: Severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID), Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome

Researchers continue to study other uses for cord blood, including treating conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, stroke, diabetes, hearing loss and brain injury.

Success Rates of Cord Blood Transplants

Success rates vary depending on the disease being treated. According to research compiled by the National Cord Blood Program, the survival rate for children with acute leukemia who undergo cord blood transplant is around 70%. For children with inherited metabolic disorders, the survival rate is around 90%. Comparatively, bone marrow transplant survival rates are very similar at around 70% for leukemia and 80-90% for metabolic disorders.

Regulation of Cord Blood Banking

The FDA regulates cord blood banking in the U.S., setting standards for collection, testing, processing, storage and distribution. Both public and private banks must follow FDA regulations and are subject to inspection. ASBMT and AABB are two organizations that provide accreditation showing that a bank meets quality standards and performs periodic audits.


Deciding whether to store your newborn’s cord blood is a highly personal choice. For most families, the small chance of ever needing the blood and the high upfront and annual costs make public donation a better option. But if you have a family history of diseases treatable by stem cells, a larger family, and the financial means, private cord blood banking can provide peace of mind and the possibility of life-saving treatment down the road for your child or other family members.

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