Is Banked Cord Blood Worth It?

Is Banked Cord Blood Worth It?


Illustration by Barry Falls

Illustration by Barry Falls

There was a lot of talk on Monday about stem cells. Today let’s talk about cord blood, a source of stem cells, taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn immediately after birth. It doesn’t hurt the baby — they are not even attached to the cord any longer when the blood is taken — and it could be potentially life saving for someone else down the road, should those cells be a match for someone being treated for blood disease that requires a stem cell transplant.

In the past decade or so a business has grown up allowing parents to privately “bank” cord blood so that the child or other family member can use it, if needed, in the future.

If you’ve had a baby recently you’ve seen brochures in the doctor’s waiting room. It’s not cheap to store blood for decades; private cord blood banks typically charge a $1,500 – $2,000 collection fee and an annual $100 – $200 fee. Some cord blood banks allow prospective parents to open a “registry” so friends and family who would prefer not to buy booties and onesies can share in the banking costs.

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, writing in this month’s issue of the journal Pediatrics, concluded, in effect, that you’d be better off spending your money on onesies. That has been the view of most major medical organizations over the years, who see private banks as preying on parents fears. The Dana-Farber study marks the first time that doctors who perform such transplants were asked how often privately banked cord blood is actually used. READ MORE