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What Is Cord Blood Banking and What Are the Benefits?

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Soon-to-be-parent status comes with a hefty dose of decision-making. Birth plans, hospital choices, breast- or bottle-fed and more can be found on most to-do lists. But there’s something else to be considered. A topic that may not be as notable but just as important as the rest: whether to bank your baby’s cord blood.

What is cord blood, and how is it used?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, cord blood is the blood from the baby that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Simply put, it’s the stuff left over. Babies don’t need this leftover blood, but it contains live-saving cells that could help those who are sick, now or in the future.

Cord blood contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells (a type of blood cell that can mature into other types of blood cells) that can be used to treat some types of diseases. What does this mean exactly? Typically, most cells can only make copies of themselves. However, a hematopoietic stem cell can develop into other cell types in the body. These cells can also be found in the blood and bone marrow of adults and children.

Cord blood stem cells can help treat more than 80 diseases. These include metabolic disorders, sickle cell disease, immune deficiencies and some cancers.

How is cord blood collected?

A couple of boxes need to be checked before cord blood collection:

  • Decide if the collected cord blood will be donated to a public bank or kept for the family at a private bank. Regardless of the storage method chosen, the bank should be notified. Private storage will ask for a signed contract and fee before delivery.
  • A collection kit must be obtained in advance (about six weeks before the due date). Some hospitals have these on hand, but others do not.
  • The mother’s blood has to be tested and a family medical history provided.
  • Consent must be given before labor begins.

Collection of cord blood should be discussed with a doctor well before childbirth but happens immediately after delivery. Quick, simple and painless, collection takes anywhere from five to 10 minutes. After cutting the umbilical cord, a doctor or a member of the labor and delivery team will use a needle to draw the blood from the umbilical cord vein and collect it into a bag. The blood is then sent off to be processed, frozen and stored according to the agreed-upon decision.

Some parents have special requests both pre- and post-delivery. Delayed cord clamping is one example. This process involves waiting varying amounts of time before clamping the umbilical cord to allow some of the blood to flow back into the baby. Cord blood collection and banking is still an option during this circumstance. However, the collection amount could be less depending on the baby. Parents should also keep in mind that there are certain thresholds cord blood must meet to be viable for storage or donation. And delayed cord clamping may prevent their cord blood donation from meeting these donation thresholds.

How is cord blood stored?

Cord blood can be stored in one of two ways: public or private. The use of a private cord bank is rare with public banking being the more common choice. However, being familiar with the pros and cons of each can help in selection. Any cord blood bank up for consideration should have an American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) accreditation. This distinction is the gold standard in cord blood banking ensuring baby’s cord blood is collected, stored, processed and distributed safely. Be sure the bank is registered with the Food & Drug Administration as well.

Public Cord Banks

With public cord banks, baby’s cord blood is stored and can be used by anyone needing treatment. It could also be used for medical research. The public bank pays for collection and storage, so donating cord blood is free. There will most likely be less paperwork involved as well compared to working with a private storage facility. The easiest way to donate publicly is to deliver in a hospital that works directly with the National Marrow Donor Program. Public donors do have to meet certain requirements. Check those out here. The closest public storage facility is in Texas.

Here’s a quick reference chart for public donation pros and cons.



Donating is free.

The cord blood isn’t yours, so there’s no guarantee it will be available down the line.

Donating could help save a life.

Donors need to meet certain requirements.

Easy to donate with a bank that works with the hospital for planned delivery.

Donation is more difficult if the delivery hospital doesn’t already work with the bank.

Private Cord Banks

The use of private cord blood banking is rare. But with private cord blood banking, the parents decide where their baby’s blood is stored for current or future use. The family owns the cord blood and is responsible for making all decisions regarding its usage. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, families should only consider private cord blood storage if a family member has a genetic disease that will benefit from stem cell treatments. It’s interesting to note that the chances of a child actually using his/her own cord blood are remote.

Cost is the number one differentiator between public and private cord blood banking. Collection fees can range anywhere between $1,300 to $2,000 with additional annual fees as well. It’s important to ask questions and explore the costs of private banking. Items like whether insurance will cover the collection process, if the doctor or midwife charges a collection fee or whether there is an existing family need can all contribute to costs and should weigh in on decision making.

Here are a few of the pros and cons of private cord blood banking.



Baby may be able to be treated with their cord blood in the future.

Collection fees could be upward of $2,000.

Cord blood is reserved for family only.

If the individual or a family member cannot immediately benefit from cord blood, the chances of using it are remote.

Cord blood can be used to treat a sick family member.

An additional fee around $100 to $175 per month is also required to store cord blood privately.

What else should be considered when deciding whether to donate or store cord blood?

As previously mentioned, six to eight weeks before delivery is a good time to bring up cord blood donation to your doctor or healthcare provider. This way, there’s plenty of time to make a well-informed decision on what’s best. Some things to consider and discuss could include

  • Does our hospital collect cord blood? Some hospitals have pre-arranged blood collection procedures, while others do not.
  • Is the doctor willing to collect the cord blood? Although disagreement is rare, some doctors may not perform collection for various reasons.
  • Do we meet the requirements for public cord blood banking? The doctor can help determine if all necessary criteria are met to donate.
  • Is there a fee for cord blood collection? There could be fees associated with collection for both public and private storage options.

Cord blood banking or donation is a personal decision. There are a variety of resources available online that can help. A few of these include

To learn more about cord blood banking, schedule an appointment with an Ochsner Obstetrician.

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