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Cord Blood Banking: Is it Worth It?

Chrissy Teigen banks her kids' cord blood, should you? Many families have heard of cord blood banking through targeted ads and influencer posts. It's marketed as a way to buy "insurance" for you baby and your family. It's expensive, so is it actually worth the money?

Chrissy Teigen advertises a private cord bank on her instagram as a sponsored ad with the text "say yes to cord" and "cord blood registry"

What is Cord Blood?

The umbilical cord, which connects the fetus to the placenta, is circulating with stem cell-rich blood. If you clamp the cord before the blood is fully transferred from the placenta to the baby after birth, you can collect the blood. This blood is the good stuff, so good that it can be used to fight 70+ diseases. It contains stem cells like the ones found in bone marrow. (1)

Cord blood doesn't contain many stem cells, so for an adult you may need to combine samples from multiple cords. (2) Before you stop reading because you've decided this blood is magic, I need to point out that there is a lot of misinformation out there. Advertisements claim that this valuable fluid can treat autism, Alzheimers, cerebral palsy and more. It is not approved to treat any of those diseases. (3)

How Cord Blood is Collected and Stored (Public v. Private)

After your baby is born, your provider will clamp the umbilical cord and draw the blood out using a needle. Not all birth locations offer the service and not all health insurances cover cord blood collection. If an emergency occurs during delivery, priority is given to caring for the birther and baby over collecting the cord blood.

Cord blood that is donated to a public cord bank is available to anyone who needs it. You are giving away your baby's blood in order to help save a stranger's life. If you use a private cord blood bank, that blood is stored specifically for you and you pay for the services. This type of service is especially helpful for families with a history of genetic diseases that can be treated with stem cells.

The private cord bank advertised by Chrissy Teigen above costs $1750 for collection and processing and then $400 annually in storage fees. If you pay for 18 years up front, it's $7,340. (4) Private banks are not regulated by the FDA and are for-profit businesses.

Should I Save My Child's Cord Blood to Treat Future Diseases?

Although it sounds like a great idea to save cord blood for your child to use later, there are two main reasons why this type of transplant ("autologous transplant") is incredibly rare:

  1. A child's stem cells cannot be used to treat their own genetic diseases because their stem cells carry the same genes with that disease.

  2. Cord blood is touted often as a treatment for leukemia, but again, a child's own cord blood cannot be used to treat their leukemia. (5)

Research is being done to investigate the use of cord blood to treat complications related to Covid as well as other diseases, but at this time there is no research that shows that your child can directly benefit from their own cord blood in the future.

In order to collect cord blood, you have to prevent that blood from infusing into your newborn. Babies are capable of surviving without that blood, but we also know that it is beneficial. In fact, delayed cord clamping is now considered best practice for both term and preterm infants. (6)

The American College of Gynecology (ACOG) does not recommend saving cord blood as "insurance" against future diseases. If you already have a child with a disease, collecting a siblings cord blood can be beneficial. (7) There is never a guarantee that your cord blood will contain enough stem cells to be useful.

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you see as the pros and cons of cord blood banking?

  • Is it important to you to donate cord blood? Why?

  • Is there a good chance someone in your immediate family will need a stem cell transplant?

  • Are you willing to pay indefinitely to store something you or your family may never use?

  • Do you have the financial resources to afford cord blood collection and storage?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. You may want to do this research in your second trimester so that you have plenty of time to talk to your provider and your family.


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