One of the many questions a pregnant mom is likely to be asked by her doctor before she has the baby is whether she wants to bank or donate cord blood after the birth. "I've been thinking about this for months now. I'm having my first child, and I wanted to bank because I thought it was [a] cool and beneficial idea. However, if I'm having a healthy baby is it necessary? Should I just donate?" asks Circle of Moms member Ashley B.
Cord blood is helpful in transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and many other life-threatening diseases, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.
Despite the life-saving opportunities, however, I decided to forgo banking or donating my children's cord blood when they were delivered. Here are five reasons why.
1. Consider Family History
During my pregnancy, my OBGYN provided me with a host of informational resources, one of which described the process and costs of private cord blood banking. I briefly considered the opportunity. Because I was having a baby at somewhat of a late age and my sister has a learning disability, I was concerned about potential health problems or birth defects.
Given my concerns and family history, my doctor first referred me to a genetic counselor, who helped to map out the likelihood that my husband and I would have a child with certain diseases. After evaluating the risks with this professional, we believed that the chance of our child or anyone else in our family needing cord blood was small.
"If your baby or anyone in your family is a high risk or has had a disease that can be treated by cord blood then it's more beneficial," says Chelsea B. But if it's not in your family, it's not likely your baby will ever get anything worth using it on. It's pretty much whether or not you feel you are going to use it, if something does happen it's a good thing to have."
On the other hand, when Diane M. initially looked into her family's medical histories, she discovered that both sides of her families have a history of leukemia. In 2006, her brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. So for Diane, it made more sense to bank cord blood. "We thought we might need it for our child or for him," she says.
2. Private Banking Can Be Pricey
For my family, another deterrent against banking cord blood privately was the high storage costs. At the large, private bank Cord Blood Registry, it costs about $2,000 to store blood for the first year, and then $130 each year thereafter.
"It's too freaking expensive!" comments Jessica L.
Parents should "weigh the pros and cons of each [banking, donating, or disposing of the blood] and see which makes more sense for your situation including if you can afford the storage fee," recommends Emily C.
In Jessica's case, she still believed in the value of using cord blood to help someone, so when she had her child she donated her child's cord blood, instead of keeping it for her family. "I figured if it had the potential to save a life, why not?"
3. Public Donations Are Not Always Easy
While I, too, would like to be charitable, I personally chose not to donate my sons' cord blood to a public cord blood bank because of the process involved. Not all hospitals routinely collect cord blood. If your hospital doesn't, but you still want to donate, you can request a collection kit from the national cord blood registry. But, parents still foot the bill for some costs.
"I wanted to make a donation of the cord blood from my son to one of these public center, however there are only a few in the country and you have to pay for the collection of the cord blood and the transportation of the cord blood. I can't believe they make it so hard for someone to try to help someone else!" Laurie B. says.
4. Collection Can Feel Invasive
Regardless of whether my family had enough funds to pay for cord blood donation, I also felt like the collection process was somewhat invasive. While in labor with my eldest son, I was given an opportunity to decide whether to donate my son's cord blood. A technician came into my room to explain that if I wanted to donate the blood, I would have to fill out several forms and give a sample of my blood after my baby is born to test for infectious diseases.
I was already somewhat stressed out about being in labor — and I'm squeamish about giving blood — so the thought of being prodded again, and having to fill out paperwork instead of enjoying the process of giving birth, to me, was a turnoff. Furthermore, if I had donated my son's blood, I was told the bank would have had to check to see if it had enough blood-forming cells. If it didn't, then my deposit could be used for research. And the thought of using something that came out of my body for a science experiment just personally didn't sit right with me.
While donating cord blood is a valuable and worthy cause, "be aware that it's a procedure that needs to take place immediately after birth — and can be a huge inconvenience when you're already dead tired," says Amanda R.
5. Baby Can Use the Blood
There's no denying the cord blood is invaluable. I wanted my sons to have the opportunity to benefit from the blood. But instead of banking it, it made more sense to me to give them those benefits at the time of their birth. Several Circle of Moms members — and members of the medical community — explain that the process of collecting cord blood deprives blood from your baby.
To collect the blood, once your baby is born, "the cord gets clamped and cut immediately," Martina says, "and it's more beneficial to your baby if it's left for a few minutes, if possible."
Laura Z. agrees. What people call "cord blood" is the blood that happens to be in the cord at the time of birth, she says. "But just minutes before, that same blood is inside your baby's heart. And in a few minutes from birth, the cord pushes the blood into the baby so it has its full amount of blood," she says. "When you clamp the cord immediately after birth, your baby loses a decent percentage of their blood!"
Mom Minnie J. also believes cord blood is not "extra" blood your baby doesn't need. "Delayed cord clamping ensures baby receives the optimal amount of blood — this prevents iron deficiency anemia. Babies who lose that blood through early cord clamping (or in this case, blood banking) come away with less than the optimal blood supply," she says.
Ultimately, banking cord blood, whether for yourself or someone else, is like taking out an "insurance policy" for health, Allison says. Parents have to evaluate their individual risks and rewards, considering whether you can afford the cost and time it takes to keep the blood, versus the need to keep it.
"Don't let anyone pressure you," Amanda R. adds. "Do your own research, and make your own decision based on your circumstances."
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.