What is cord blood banking — and is it better to use a public or private facility?

Answers from Shakila Khan, M.D.

Cord blood banking is a procedure in which cord blood — a rich source of stem cells — is taken from a newborn's umbilical cord after delivery and preserved for possible future use in a stem cell transplant. Collecting a baby's cord blood poses few, if any, risks to either mother or baby. If you're considering cord blood banking, the choice between a public and private facility is up to you.

If you'd like your baby's cord blood to be available for research or public use, you might consider using a public cord blood banking facility. Cord blood transplants from unrelated donors can be used to treat many conditions, ranging from leukemia and various metabolic conditions to cerebral palsy. You won't be charged any fees to donate cord blood to a public bank. However, you may need to deliver your baby at a hospital or other facility specifically equipped to handle public cord blood donations. Cord blood banked in a public program won't likely be available for future private use.

If you're interested in preserving your baby's cord blood for possible personal use, you might consider using a private cord blood banking facility. This type of cord blood banking is more controversial. The cost can be considerable, including an initial collection fee and ongoing maintenance fees — yet the chance that your child will use his or her own banked cord blood in the future is remote. Also, should your child need a stem cell transplant at some point, there's no guarantee that his or her banked cord blood will remain viable or be suitable for a transplant.

If a baby's cord blood isn't collected for preservation or research, it's simply discarded.

If you'd like to know more about public cord blood banking or wonder whether private cord blood banking would be a worthwhile investment for your family, consult your health care provider. He or she can help you understand the options and make an informed decision.

With

Shakila Khan, M.D.

Jul. 01, 2011 See more Expert Answers