Cord Blood Banking FAQ
Not so long ago, cord blood banking was an elusive topic. Many people didn’t even know it was a possibility, and those who did weren’t entirely sure where it would go and why it would become important. It was an expensive, mysterious process reserved only for the rarest of potential diseases.
However, in recent years, the practice of cord blood banking has become much more popular and mainstream. Doulas get asked a lot of questions about it in our birth planning sessions.
When ProDoula (the certification organization through which Phoenix Family Birth doulas are trained and certified) offered an educational conference call about cord blood banking to its members, we took the opportunity to learn about the advancements in this field.
With gratitude to Marion Welch of Cryo-Cell International for sharing her knowledge as an experienced cord blood educator, we are excited to share with you some important information about cord blood banking.
What is cord blood banking?
As you are probably aware, the umbilical cord connects your baby to your placenta to provide nutrients and oxygen and eliminate baby’s waste. Within that umbilical cord there are two arteries and one vein, and at any given time there is up to one-third of your baby’s blood volume passing through the umbilical cord and placenta. The blood carries red, white, and T-cells as well stem cells, and when you collect and save your baby’s cord blood, you are reserving these stem cells for later use in life.
Why would I want to bank my baby’s cord blood?
Stem cells are the master cells of the body. They can create new cells of the same type and can even adapt to build other types of cells by differentiating the needs of the body. They are not yet fully programmed and can travel throughout the body, anchor, and change into the cell type needed. They are especially effective as neurological cells, because they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
When stem cells are needed, the first choice would be to use a person’s own stem cells (which can come from cord blood and bone marrow). If that is not available, the next best option is a family member’s donation. It is also possible to use donor stem cells, but this is more difficult to match.
There are currently 80 FDA-approved uses for stem cells. Some of the ongoing studies and uses include congenital heart defects, Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke, Type I Diabetes, neurological injuries, cerebral palsy, autism, ALS, Lupus, arthritis, colitis, MS, cirrhosis, and Crohn’s disease. There have been 40,000 cord blood transplants in the U.S.
What happens if I don’t bank my baby’s cord blood?
If you are not planning to do cord blood banking, then there are two standard options. Most healthcare providers will clamp the umbilical cord immediately upon birth to stop the flow of blood, and then the cord is cut. You can also choose to request that your provider delay the clamping of your baby’s cord to allow a greater volume of blood to be returned to your baby. Delayed cord clamping has many reported benefits, which you can read about here.
Can I still delay cord clamping if I plan to bank cord blood?
Contrary to popular belief, YES! You can opt to delay cord clamping AND participate in cord blood banking.
Can I encapsulate my placenta if I bank my cord blood?
Yes! And Phoenix Family Birth would be happy to provide professional placenta encapsulation services for you.
What is the process for cord blood banking?
- Let your provider know that you want to bank your baby’s cord blood. They will connect you with their preferred cord blood banking service. It is ideal to arrange for this before 32 weeks.
- A kit will be sent to you, and will come with proper labels and instructions. Bring your kit with you to the hospital.
- Upon arrival at the hospital, you will get a maternal blood draw.
- After the cord is done pulsing, a blood draw will be taken from the umbilical vein while the placenta is still attached to baby.
- The cord blood will be packed on ice and couriered to the appropriate facility for processing and storage.
- A certificate will be mailed to you
Can I bank my baby’s cord blood if I am having a C-Section?
Yes, it is possible to bank your cord blood during a cesarean birth. However, the process during the birth may change a bit and there may be a slightly smaller yield of cord blood in this case. We recommend that you discuss specific concerns with your OB/GYN or calling your cord blood bank for exact details, as they will vary depending on a variety of factors.
What is the cost of cord blood banking?
Banking at Cryo-Cell International is $1200 for the first year and approximately $350 per year thereafter for basic cord blood banking. Other cord blood banks may vary in cost.
You can use your HSA.
You can use your FSA with a prescription of medical need if there is a family history of an approved disease or condition.
Alternately, you can donate your cord blood for public use for no cost.
How do I choose a cord blood bank?
You want a cord blood bank that:
Is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).
Maintains a warranty on the cord blood.
Stores red blood cells in addition to stem cells.
Stores the cord blood in a bunker that is inspected and registered by the FDA.
What you choose to do with your baby’s cord blood is a deeply personal choice. If storing it is not right for your family, but you’d like to donate it to help other families in need, it’s a great way to pay it forward and maybe even be a hero. If you decide to participate in cord blood banking, be sure to add it to your birth plan and discuss it with your provider ahead of time.