Top of the pageDecision Point

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor’s recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Pregnancy: Should I Bank My Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Have your baby’s cord blood collected and sent to a private
    cord blood bank or a public cord blood bank.
  • Do not bank or donate your baby’s cord blood.

Key points to remember

  • Doctors do not recommend that you bank cord blood on the slight
    chance that your baby will need stem cells someday. If your baby were to need
    stem cells, he or she would probably need stem cells from someone else rather
    than his or her own stem cells.
  • Although privately banked cord blood is not likely to help your
    baby, it may help a sibling who has an illness that could be treated with a
    stem cell transplant. These include
    leukemia,
    sickle cell disease,
    Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and
    thalassemia. Doctors recommend that you bank your
    baby’s cord blood only if a family member already has one of these
    illnesses.
  • You might consider donating the cord blood to a public bank
    instead. You probably won’t be able to use the blood, but it could be used for
    research or for another child.
  • Private cord blood banking is expensive. You will pay a
    starting fee of about $1,000 to $2,000, plus a storage fee of more than $100 a
    year for as long as the blood is stored.
  • If you want to save the
    cord blood, you must arrange for it ahead of time. It is not a decision you can
    make at the last minute.
  • Collecting the cord blood does not cause
    pain.
FAQs

What is umbilical cord blood?

Cord blood is the
blood left in the
umbilical cord after birth. It contains stem cells.
These cells have the amazing ability to grow into many different kinds of
cells, like bone marrow cells, blood cells, or brain cells. This can make them
valuable for treating some diseases.

Diseases that can be treated
with stem cell transplants include leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and some types
of anemia. When healthy stem cells are transplanted into a child who is ill,
those cells can grow new
bone marrow cells to replace the ones destroyed by the
disease or its treatment. Stem cells from the child’s own cord blood often
cannot be used, because they may have led to the disease in the first
place.

Much research is being done to see if stem cells can be
used to treat more problems. For now, though, treatment is limited to diseases
that affect blood cells.

Cord blood kept in a private bank is
usually used to treat disease in a brother or sister. Cord blood stem cells are
rarely used to treat adults, who normally need more stem cells than cord blood
has.

What is cord blood banking?

The umbilical cord is
usually thrown away after birth. But the blood inside the cord can be saved, or
banked, for possible later use. The blood is drawn from the umbilical cord
after the cord has been clamped and cut. Cord blood banks freeze the cord blood
for storage.

You may save your baby’s cord blood in a private bank
or donate it to a public bank. Private banks charge a fee to store cord blood
for your family’s use. If you donate the cord blood to a public bank, the cord
blood can be used by anyone who needs it.

During your pregnancy,
you may get ads or brochures from private cord blood banks. Some of them
suggest that parents should save the cord blood in case the baby should one day
need a stem cell transplant. Be wary of banks that urge cord blood banking for
this reason. It is not known how likely a child is to need a transplant of his
or her own cells, but experts say the chances are very small.footnote 1

Most transplants
of cord blood stem cells use cord blood donated by others to public
banks.

One reason why donations to public cord banks are so
valuable is that stem cells from cord blood do not need to be as perfectly
matched for a transplant as do stem cells from adult bone marrow. Stem cells
from cord blood are not as mature, so the transplant patient’s body is much
less likely to reject them.

How much does it cost?

It costs money to store your baby’s cord
blood. Private banks charge about $1,000 to $2,000 to start. Then you must pay
yearly storage fees for as long as the blood is stored. The storage fees cost
more than $100 a year. Health plans usually do not cover these costs. Only you
can decide if the cost makes sense for you and your family.

Some private blood banks
will waive their fees for families who need the stem cells right away.

What other things should you consider?

It is very unlikely that anyone
in your family will ever need your baby’s cord blood.

Doctors worry that the advertising done by private cord blood banks may
make some parents feel guilty if they do not want or cannot pay to store their
baby’s cord blood. Pregnancy and childbirth are emotional times, so learn all
you can ahead of time.

If you bank or donate your baby’s cord blood, it will be tested for
genetic and infectious diseases. What you learn from a genetic test can affect
your life and that of your family in many ways.

  • Learning that your child is likely to develop
    a serious disease can be scary or depressing. This information may also affect
    your relationships with other family members.
  • If your child tests
    positive for a gene that will cause a disease, you may decide to use treatment,
    if available, to prevent the disease or to make it less severe. Although many
    treatments work well, others may be unproved or may even be
    dangerous.

Private banking: If you decide to
bank your baby’s cord blood, make sure that the blood bank you use is approved
by a reputable regulatory agency, such as the American Association of Blood
Banks. Look for a bank that has tested and stored many cord blood samples and
whose samples have been used successfully in transplants. Ask for a copy of the
bank’s policies and procedures.

Public banking: You may decide that you would like to donate your baby’s cord
blood. Donating makes the stem cells available to others. It does not cost
anything. Unfortunately, it is not yet an option in many communities. Call the
hospital where you plan to give birth to find out if you can donate cord blood
there.

Why might your doctor recommend banking your baby’s cord blood?

Your doctor might recommend privately banking your baby’s
umbilical cord blood if:

  • You have another child who has a disease that
    could be treated with a stem cell transplant.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?

What are the benefits?

What are the risks and side effects?

Bank cord blood

Bank cord blood

  • Long before birth, you arrange to bank your baby’s cord
    blood.
  • The blood is drawn from the umbilical cord after the cord
    has been clamped and cut.
  • A cord blood bank freezes the cord blood
    for storage.
  • Cord blood in a private bank could be used for a sibling who has
    an illness that can be treated with cord blood from a baby brother or
    sister.
  • Giving the blood to a public cord blood bank could help research or
    some other child who needs it.
  • Private cord blood banking costs a lot. Banks charge $1,000 to $2,000
    to start storage, then fees of more than $100 a year.
  • Cord blood is
    tested for diseases. You could find out about a gene that may one day give your
    child a disease. This news could affect your child’s future.
Don’t bank cord blood

Don’t bank cord blood

  • The umbilical cord is thrown away after birth.
  • You save money by not putting blood in a private cord
    blood bank.
  • Your child could later get an illness that could have been
    treated with a stem cell transplant. But experts say the chance that a child
    will need a transplant of his or her own cells is very small.footnote 1

Personal stories about cord blood banking

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

When we were
expecting, we were swamped with promotions about cord blood banking. They said
it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to do something that could save our
child’s life. It made us feel guilty. Then the doctor told us the odds of our
child needing his own cord blood were almost zero. So we decided banking the
cord blood would not be a smart use of our money.

Hank, 32

Our
2-year-old daughter has leukemia. She will need a stem cell transplant. We have
contacted a cord blood bank and are going to have our newborn’s cord blood
saved and, hopefully, used to save our toddler’s life.

Sondra, 30

I did not want to pay to save my baby’s
cord blood. But I was bothered by the thought of those good stem cells going to
waste. So I contacted a public blood bank in my community, and they collected
the cord blood so that someone else can use the stem cells in the future.

Lee,
35

I liked the idea of donating my baby’s cord blood to a public blood bank in case someone else needed it. But I have so many other things to do before my baby is born that I wasn’t sure I had time to deal with making the arrangements. As it turns out, cord blood banking isn’t available in our small community. That made the decision not to do it easy.

Theresa, 25

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to bank your baby’s cord blood

Reasons not to bank your baby’s cord blood

I think putting the cord blood in a private bank would be worth the cost.

The cost of putting the cord blood in a private bank worries me.

More important
Equally important
More important

I have a young family member who will probably need a stem cell transplant in the future.

No one in my family has an illness that would need stem cells for treatment.

More important
Equally important
More important

I will donate the cord blood to a public cord bank if I can, because I’ll feel better if the stem cells don’t go to waste.

Cord blood donation is not available in my community.

More important
Equally important
More important

I like the idea of banking the cord blood for the future, “just in case.”

I’m not worried about the really small chance that my child might need his or her own stem cells.

More important
Equally important
More important

We plan to have more children, and leukemia, Hodgkin’s, or sickle cell disease runs in our family.

We don’t plan to have any more children.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you’ve thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Banking my baby’s cord blood

NOT banking my baby’s cord blood

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1, I should bank my baby’s cord blood in case my baby gets an illness that can be treated with stem cells.
2, I have to arrange ahead of the birth to have my baby’s umbilical cord blood banked or donated.
3, I may be able to donate my baby’s cord blood to a public blood bank for use in research or to help other children.

Decide what’s next

1,Do you understand the options available to you?
2,Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3,Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

Your Summary

Here’s a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision 

Next steps

Which way you’re leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts 

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act 

Patient choices

Credits and References

Credits
Author Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

References
Citations
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2008, reaffirmed 2012). Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(2, Part 1): 475-477.
Other Works Consulted
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2008, reaffirmed 2012). Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(2, Part 1): 475-477.
  • Annas GJ (1999). Waste and longing-The legal status of placental-blood banking. New England Journal of Medicine, 340(19): 1521-1524.
  • Cord blood banks (2001). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 43(W1114B): 84-86.
  • Moise KJ Jr (2005). Umbilical cord stem cells. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 106(6): 1393-1407.
  • Private cord blood banks (2004). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 46(1178): 21-22.
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor’s recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Pregnancy: Should I Bank My Baby’s Umbilical Cord Blood?

Here’s a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the Facts

Your options

  • Have your baby’s cord blood collected and sent to a private
    cord blood bank or a public cord blood bank.
  • Do not bank or donate your baby’s cord blood.

Key points to remember

  • Doctors do not recommend that you bank cord blood on the slight
    chance that your baby will need stem cells someday. If your baby were to need
    stem cells, he or she would probably need stem cells from someone else rather
    than his or her own stem cells.
  • Although privately banked cord blood is not likely to help your
    baby, it may help a sibling who has an illness that could be treated with a
    stem cell transplant. These include
    leukemia,
    sickle cell disease,
    Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and
    thalassemia. Doctors recommend that you bank your
    baby’s cord blood only if a family member already has one of these
    illnesses.
  • You might consider donating the cord blood to a public bank
    instead. You probably won’t be able to use the blood, but it could be used for
    research or for another child.
  • Private cord blood banking is expensive. You will pay a
    starting fee of about $1,000 to $2,000, plus a storage fee of more than $100 a
    year for as long as the blood is stored.
  • If you want to save the
    cord blood, you must arrange for it ahead of time. It is not a decision you can
    make at the last minute.
  • Collecting the cord blood does not cause
    pain.
FAQs

What is umbilical cord blood?

Cord blood is the
blood left in the
umbilical cord after birth. It contains stem cells.
These cells have the amazing ability to grow into many different kinds of
cells, like bone marrow cells, blood cells, or brain cells. This can make them
valuable for treating some diseases.

Diseases that can be treated
with stem cell transplants include leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and some types
of anemia. When healthy stem cells are transplanted into a child who is ill,
those cells can grow new
bone marrow cells to replace the ones destroyed by the
disease or its treatment. Stem cells from the child’s own cord blood often
cannot be used, because they may have led to the disease in the first
place.

Much research is being done to see if stem cells can be
used to treat more problems. For now, though, treatment is limited to diseases
that affect blood cells.

Cord blood kept in a private bank is
usually used to treat disease in a brother or sister. Cord blood stem cells are
rarely used to treat adults, who normally need more stem cells than cord blood
has.

What is cord blood banking?

The umbilical cord is
usually thrown away after birth. But the blood inside the cord can be saved, or
banked, for possible later use. The blood is drawn from the umbilical cord
after the cord has been clamped and cut. Cord blood banks freeze the cord blood
for storage.

You may save your baby’s cord blood in a private bank
or donate it to a public bank. Private banks charge a fee to store cord blood
for your family’s use. If you donate the cord blood to a public bank, the cord
blood can be used by anyone who needs it.

During your pregnancy,
you may get ads or brochures from private cord blood banks. Some of them
suggest that parents should save the cord blood in case the baby should one day
need a stem cell transplant. Be wary of banks that urge cord blood banking for
this reason. It is not known how likely a child is to need a transplant of his
or her own cells, but experts say the chances are very small.1

Most transplants
of cord blood stem cells use cord blood donated by others to public
banks.

One reason why donations to public cord banks are so
valuable is that stem cells from cord blood do not need to be as perfectly
matched for a transplant as do stem cells from adult bone marrow. Stem cells
from cord blood are not as mature, so the transplant patient’s body is much
less likely to reject them.

How much does it cost?

It costs money to store your baby’s cord
blood. Private banks charge about $1,000 to $2,000 to start. Then you must pay
yearly storage fees for as long as the blood is stored. The storage fees cost
more than $100 a year. Health plans usually do not cover these costs. Only you
can decide if the cost makes sense for you and your family.

Some private blood banks
will waive their fees for families who need the stem cells right away.

What other things should you consider?

It is very unlikely that anyone
in your family will ever need your baby’s cord blood.

Doctors worry that the advertising done by private cord blood banks may
make some parents feel guilty if they do not want or cannot pay to store their
baby’s cord blood. Pregnancy and childbirth are emotional times, so learn all
you can ahead of time.

If you bank or donate your baby’s cord blood, it will be tested for
genetic and infectious diseases. What you learn from a genetic test can affect
your life and that of your family in many ways.

  • Learning that your child is likely to develop
    a serious disease can be scary or depressing. This information may also affect
    your relationships with other family members.
  • If your child tests
    positive for a gene that will cause a disease, you may decide to use treatment,
    if available, to prevent the disease or to make it less severe. Although many
    treatments work well, others may be unproved or may even be
    dangerous.

Private banking: If you decide to
bank your baby’s cord blood, make sure that the blood bank you use is approved
by a reputable regulatory agency, such as the American Association of Blood
Banks. Look for a bank that has tested and stored many cord blood samples and
whose samples have been used successfully in transplants. Ask for a copy of the
bank’s policies and procedures.

Public banking: You may decide that you would like to donate your baby’s cord
blood. Donating makes the stem cells available to others. It does not cost
anything. Unfortunately, it is not yet an option in many communities. Call the
hospital where you plan to give birth to find out if you can donate cord blood
there.

Why might your doctor recommend banking your baby’s cord blood?

Your doctor might recommend privately banking your baby’s
umbilical cord blood if:

  • You have another child who has a disease that
    could be treated with a stem cell transplant.

2. Compare your options

  Bank cord blood
Don’t bank cord blood
What is usually involved?
  • Long before birth, you arrange to bank your baby’s cord
    blood.
  • The blood is drawn from the umbilical cord after the cord
    has been clamped and cut.
  • A cord blood bank freezes the cord blood
    for storage.
  • The umbilical cord is thrown away after birth.
What are the benefits?
  • Cord blood in a private bank could be used for a sibling who has
    an illness that can be treated with cord blood from a baby brother or
    sister.
  • Giving the blood to a public cord blood bank could help research or
    some other child who needs it.
  • You save money by not putting blood in a private cord
    blood bank.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • Private cord blood banking costs a lot. Banks charge $1,000 to $2,000
    to start storage, then fees of more than $100 a year.
  • Cord blood is
    tested for diseases. You could find out about a gene that may one day give your
    child a disease. This news could affect your child’s future.
  • Your child could later get an illness that could have been
    treated with a stem cell transplant. But experts say the chance that a child
    will need a transplant of his or her own cells is very small.1

Personal stories

Personal stories about cord blood banking

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

“When we were expecting, we were swamped with promotions about cord blood banking. They said it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to do something that could save our child’s life. It made us feel guilty. Then the doctor told us the odds of our child needing his own cord blood were almost zero. So we decided banking the cord blood would not be a smart use of our money.”

— Hank, 32

“Our 2-year-old daughter has leukemia. She will need a stem cell transplant. We have contacted a cord blood bank and are going to have our newborn’s cord blood saved and, hopefully, used to save our toddler’s life.”

— Sondra, 30

“I did not want to pay to save my baby’s cord blood. But I was bothered by the thought of those good stem cells going to waste. So I contacted a public blood bank in my community, and they collected the cord blood so that someone else can use the stem cells in the future.”

— Lee,
35

“I liked the idea of donating my baby’s cord blood to a public blood bank in case someone else needed it. But I have so many other things to do before my baby is born that I wasn’t sure I had time to deal with making the arrangements. As it turns out, cord blood banking isn’t available in our small community. That made the decision not to do it easy.”

— Theresa, 25

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to bank your baby’s cord blood

Reasons not to bank your baby’s cord blood

I think putting the cord blood in a private bank would be worth the cost.

The cost of putting the cord blood in a private bank worries me.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I have a young family member who will probably need a stem cell transplant in the future.

No one in my family has an illness that would need stem cells for treatment.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I will donate the cord blood to a public cord bank if I can, because I’ll feel better if the stem cells don’t go to waste.

Cord blood donation is not available in my community.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I like the idea of banking the cord blood for the future, “just in case.”

I’m not worried about the really small chance that my child might need his or her own stem cells.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

We plan to have more children, and leukemia, Hodgkin’s, or sickle cell disease runs in our family.

We don’t plan to have any more children.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

   
             
More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you’ve thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Banking my baby’s cord blood

NOT banking my baby’s cord blood

             
Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.
I should bank my baby’s cord blood in case my baby gets an illness that can be treated with stem cells.

  • True

  • False
  • I’m not sure

You’re right. Doctors do not recommend that you privately bank cord blood on the slight chance that your baby will have a disease that could be treated with stem cells.

2.
I have to arrange ahead of the birth to have my baby’s umbilical cord blood banked or donated.

  • True
  • False

  • I’m not sure

You’re right. You have to arrange ahead of time to bank or donate your baby’s cord blood. It is not a decision you can make at the last minute before or during your baby’s birth.

3.
I may be able to donate my baby’s cord blood to a public blood bank for use in research or to help other children.

  • True
  • False

  • I’m not sure

You’re right. Depending on where you live, you may be able to donate the cord blood. Call the hospital where you plan to give birth to find out if you can donate cord blood there.

Decide what’s next

1.
Do you understand the options available to you?

2.
Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.
Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

         
Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2.
Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I’m ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

 
Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

References
Citations
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2008, reaffirmed 2012). Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(2, Part 1): 475-477.
Other Works Consulted
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2008, reaffirmed 2012). Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(2, Part 1): 475-477.
  • Annas GJ (1999). Waste and longing-The legal status of placental-blood banking. New England Journal of Medicine, 340(19): 1521-1524.
  • Cord blood banks (2001). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 43(W1114B): 84-86.
  • Moise KJ Jr (2005). Umbilical cord stem cells. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 106(6): 1393-1407.
  • Private cord blood banks (2004). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 46(1178): 21-22.

Note: The “printer friendly” document will not contain all the information available in the online document some Information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.