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 used for research or preserved for possible use in a stem cell transplant.

Collecting a baby's cord blood poses few, if any, risks to mother or baby. If a baby's cord blood isn't collected for preservation or research, it's discarded. If you're considering cord blood banking, consider the differences between using a public and private facility. For example:

  • Public cord blood banking facility. You might choose this option if you'd like your baby's cord blood to be available for research or public use. Cord blood from unrelated donors can be used to treat conditions such as leukemia. Cord blood can be collected at any facility where health care providers are trained to recover cord blood — and you won't be charged. The donation is then shipped to a cord blood bank. Cord blood banked in a public program won't likely be available for future private use.
  • Private cord blood banking facility. You might choose this option if you want to preserve your baby's cord blood for possible personal use. The cost can be considerable, including a collection fee and ongoing maintenance fees — yet the chance that your child will ever use the banked cord blood is remote. Also, should your child need a stem cell transplant, there's no guarantee that the banked cord blood will remain viable or be suitable for a transplant.

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

With

Shakila Khan, M.D.

May. 21, 2014 See more Expert Answers