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To Bank Cord Blood or Not? I saved my first child’s blood. Should I do the same for my second?

I saved my first childs cord blood. Should I do the same for my second?

By Ellen Friedrichs |

I had a long list of things I meant to do before having my daughter almost three years ago. I meant to clean my bathroom. I meant to buy a nursing bra. I meant to inform my health insurance company about her imminent arrival, get a bassinet and shave my legs. I also meant to look into cord blood banking.

But then she came three weeks early.

I had gone in for a routine early morning OB appointment. Pretty soon, I found myself in a cab speeding to the hospital after my doctor determined that my water had broken and had probably been leaking for the past week. At the time, my thoughts were more on figuring out how to contact my sleeping boyfriend, whose phone I knew was turned off, than they were on dealing with all my unfinished business.

Thanks to a friend who had our keys, my boyfriend was roused and made it to the hospital before our baby did. And despite the urgency I had felt during my appointment, things didn’t move so speedily once there and we had plenty of time to kill. So in between watching bad TV and sneaking snacks, we perused the cord blood brochures lining the nurse’s station.

They looked a lot like the ones I had spent the last nine months ignoring in my doctor’s office. On the cover was a cute little tot with her T-shirt pulled up to reveal a cute little bellybutton. The promise of umbilical cord stem cells and amazing predictions for their use in curing everything from blood disorders to leukemia served as text. Rounding this out was a section dedicated to testimonials from parents of sick kids who were deeply grateful that they had banked.

Once I bothered to look at it, the pitch was pretty effective. Suddenly, the $2,000 collection fee and $250 a year storage cost didn’t seem so outrageous. I mean, this was our daughter’s future health we were talking about!

So we went for it.

A few months later I asked a midwife friend for her thoughts on cord blood banking. She scoffed, telling me that the reality of any child ever actually being cured of a disease due to her own cord blood was pretty miniscule. She hadn’t banked blood for either of her daughters and slept just fine at night. She also gently mentioned that some people viewed private banking as uncharitable and instead opted to donate cord blood to a public registry. This, she explained, was not only free, but was done for the greater good. Publicly banked blood could be used to treat medical conditions in anyone who was a match. Oh.

Now with my second baby due in a month, and despite the fact that my boyfriend is still on the fence about the issue, I am not inclined to bank privately again. Not only is the cost prohibitive, but the motives of these banks seem more driven by profit than science. Subsequent research alerted me to some things I hadn’t realized the first time around.

For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t support the practice of private cord blood banking and challenges the claims that doing so is a form of biological insurance. Calling the private storage of cord blood “unwise,” they explain that people can almost never be treated by their own cord blood, because those stem cells would likely be affected by the very condition you were hoping to cure!

On the flip side, a little more poking around the internet did teach me that the cord blood we stored for our daughter might not be totally worthless. There is a 25% chance that siblings will be a perfect match for each others’s cells. This means that the blood I banked for my older child might actually be beneficial for my younger one. I guess that’s less creepy than people who specifically have a baby in the hopes that its bone marrow could be used to treat a sick older sibling, yet it still seems weird.

A recent conversation with my father almost made me reconsider private banking. He was nervous when I mentioned that I was probably going to skip out on banking for the upcoming baby and put scary thoughts in my head. These weren’t about the medical risks I could avoid. Rather they were about the resentment and sibling rivalry I was already creating between the still gestating fetus and his big sister.

The cord blood we stored for our daughter might not be totally worthless. Still, it’s seeming more and more likely that if we bank again, we’ll go the public route. Of course, doing that requires a bit of planning. Finding a place to store blood privately turns out to be a lot more straightforward than tracking down a legitimate public bank and making sure the hospital where you’re delivering does cord blood collection at all. And in the grand scheme of things, researching this falls behind figuring out when I should go on maternity leave, locating a mohel who won’t balk at my kids’ non-Jewish dad, and coming up with a name for this upcoming baby.

Maybe one day cord blood banking will be a routine part of the post-birth experience. But since it currently isn’t, we’ll just try to do what makes the most sense in the moment.

Of course, both the idea of using my daughter’s blood for my next child, and the issue of banking blood just to be fair, might be moot. When my boyfriend and I started to talk about this the other night, he reminded me of something I’d forgotten. At some point in the last year we got a letter from the cord blood folks. The credit card we put the storage fee payments on had expired.

“Did you ever give them a new one?” he asked.

“Nope. You?” I said.

“Nope,” he told me.

So maybe our decision has already been made for us.

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About Ellen Friedrichs

bcellenfriedrichs

Ellen Friedrichs

Ellen Friedrichs lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches health to middle and high school students. She also teaches human sexuality at Brooklyn College and runs the GLBT teen site for About.com. More of her writing can be found on her website, sexedvice.com, and on the gURL.com State of Sex Education blog.

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13 thoughts on “To Bank Cord Blood or Not? I saved my first child’s blood. Should I do the same for my second?

  1. DaintySplendor says:

    Hmm if you care about Jewishness of your child, maybe you will be interested to find out, that Jewish law is against sharing Jewish blood with non-Jews..

  2. KT says:

    It seems like a lot of people I’ve talked to fall into the same category about not updating the credit card and letting it run out. So it was an absolute waste to spend over $2,000. If someone does need the cord blood, it most likely won’t be for years down the road. So unless you are committed to paying the storage fee forever, it is really wasted cash. I won’t get into the validity of the private companies’ claims of how the cord blood will help you, etc. etc. etc.

  3. delayedcut says:

    how about letting your newborn baby actually keep her own cordblood by delaying cord cutting?? the benefits of delaying cord clamping are well known and assured while clamping immediately and depriving your little one of her cord/placental blood just so you can pay $$ to store it in case might need it later, with very little chance of actually reaping any benefits just doesn’t make much sense to me!Some interesting statistics:
    “The placental blood normally belongs to the infant, and his/her failure to get this blood is equivalent to submitting the newborn to a severe hemorrhage at birth. [De Marsh, QB, et al "The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its Placental Blood", JOUR AMA]”
    “Deprivation of placental blood results in a relatively large loss of iron to the infant. [De Marsh, QB, et al "The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its Placental Blood", JOUR AMA ]”
    “The time of cord clamping may be involved in the pathogenesis of idiopathic respiratory distress syndrome (the earlier clamped, the more respiratory distress). [Saigat, Saroj, et al. "Placental Transfusion and Hyperbilirubinemia in the Premature" PEDS 49:3 ]”
    “Placental blood acts as a source of nourishment that protects infants against the breakdown of body protein. [De Marsh, QB, et al "The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its Placental Blood", JOUR AMA ]”
    “Studies have shown that immediate cord clamping prolongs the average duration of the third stage and greatly increases maternal blood loss. [Walsh, S. Zoe "Maternal Effects of Early and Late Clamping of the Umbilical Cord" LANCET]”

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/extract/297/11/1257
    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/297/11/1241?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=cord+clamping&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

  4. another mama says:

    DaintySplendor, that is a bizarre claim and a strange personal snipe. I can’t find any mention of this prohibition you mention, which contradicts teachings about caring for our neighbors and repairing the world. That aside, I hate arguments that start, “Well, if you’re so Jewish, why do you…” We all know there is a wide range of practice.

  5. jen m says:

    Donation was an easy choice for me. I did the research, weighed my options, and donated the cord blood from both of my sons. It was really very simple once I confirmed that my doctor was willing to participate. And I get the satisfaction that someday someone might benefit from the medical research. Check it out: http://www.cryo-intl.com/enroll/donating/

  6. DaintySplendor says:

    She meant donating the cord blood to the public bank. Maybe she considered not to do it.. One can care about neighbors in many other ways.
    I am very aware of the range of practice, and many people on the extremes of the range do not even know what they are doing. And maybe if they know, they will think twice..

  7. DaintySplendor says:

    And as for the donation, there actually ARE people who would have now paid thousands to get the opportunity to use the cord blood for healing leukemia and other diseases. They would have loved to spend that 2000 on the procedure, but never got the chance to do it

  8. Marj says:

    I’m planning on donating the cord blood.  Already talked to my doctor about it.  They only collect from the 2nd twin though, due to not wanting to take risks until both babies are safely out.

  9. coolteamblt says:

    I had wanted to donate my son’s cord blood to a public bank, but I didn’t find out this was an option until it was too late. The only bank that will collect in Colorado requires a 20 page application submitted before 30 weeks gestation, and I found out at my 30 week checkup. Oops. I have the links bookmarked in preparation for baby number two. My son’s only five months, so it’s a long way off. Maybe they’ll be more flexible by the time we’re ready for a second one!

  10. salwa says:

    I banked my first child’s blood and will bank all others because my husband is recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and who knows if he or other kids will need it in the future. This article didn’t cover nearly half the things that stem cells are used for, esp now that we have a president who is allowing research. If you can afford it, it’s totally worth the money to do this for all children. Don’t base your decision on this article.

  11. Jamie Odeneal says:

    FYI: If you donate your child’s cord blood and need it back, you can get it if it hasn’t already been used.
    I am a HUGE supporter of public donation. What’s sad is that none of my
    OB’s during either of my pregnancies ever mentioned it even though,
    after inquiring, both were more than willing to do the collection free
    of charge.
    When my first daughter was born, there was an in-house program at the
    hospital that I would have had no idea about had I not inquired. When
    my second daughter was born, I looked into it plenty early. The
    hospital didn’t have a program but I was able to donate through
    Cryobanks (a private bank.) Same paperwork and procedure as the paid
    banking, but this was free of charge.
    The glitch is that you have to get the ball rolling pretty early in
    your pregnancy or you won’t be able to get the paperwork in on time.
    (Really, it’s just a simple form a few pages in length, so it was no
    biggie to me.) Cryobanks sent me a kit that I had to bring to the
    hospital when I delivered. The OB and hospital staff took the kit and
    did what needed to be done. After delivery, they gave us the FedEx box
    all sealed up and all my husband had to do was call the right 1-800
    number and let them know we needed a pick-up, and somebody was at our
    hospital room whisking it away within hours. It was really very, very
    simple.
    Whether you choose to bank privately or not is a personal choice, but I
    urge anyone who isn’t planning to pay the big bucks to bank to please,
    please, please choose public donation. You could literally save
    someone’s life–possibly even your own child’s. Otherwise, this
    wonderful gift will literally be tossed in the trash.

  12. Imama says:

    I am also a supporter of public donation. Think of how amazing it would be if everyone did it. There would be a really, really rich pool of donors to choose from, greatly increasing every person’s chances of finding a match.My 2 year old was born in Israel. At the time, there were only a couple of hospitals in Israel that took donations (Tel Hashomer in Tel Aviv & Hadassah in Jerusalem, I think). So unfortunatly I wasn’t able to donate from Haifa.
    However, I was very psyched to discover the NY hospital where I plan to give birth in August accepts donations for cord blood.

    It seems pretty straightforward. Just check out this link and see if your hospital is listed.
    http://www.marrow.org/HELP/Donate_Cord_Blood_Share_Life/How_to_Donate_Cord_Blood/index.html

    If you or someone you know is pregnant, I strongly encourage you to consider this option.
    I wish more doctors and hospitals made this information more obviously available. I guess they don’t have the budgets of the commercial, private banks which is clearly a loss.
    [On a side note: if you have $2,000 to spare, why not put it in a bank for your child's therapy budget? The odds that they'll benefit from banked cord blood? Way tiny. The odds they'll need therapy at some point in their life? Pretty high!!]

  13. jreich says:

    I have two sons, now ages six and four, and one of the greatest regrets of my life is that I didn’t bank their cord blood.

    I believe that the potential benefits are huge: There are currently three FDA-regulated clinical trials using a childs own cord blood as a possible treatment. Two are for cerebral palsy (Georgia Health Sciences University and Duke), one is for traumatic brain injury (UT Health, Houston). Cord blood is also being researched today for use in regenerative medicine looking at potential therapies for cerebral palsy and juvenile diabetes.

    The decision is personal, of course, but I think that choosing family banking does not mean you are selfish, but that educating yourself on the current data is important. In hindsight, I wish I would have checked into it further and made a more educated decision.

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