My wife and I were first confronted with the cord blood banking question leading up to delivery of our first son. We were the first couple in our group of friends and family to have a child, so it wasn’t a topic we’d heard discussed in other circles. As I recall, I don’t even think the OB-Gyn and pre-natal discussions had any focus on fetal cord blood or stem cells or anything along those lines, it was always focused solely on the present health of mom and baby. So, with everything in flux and the big day getting closer and closer, this seemingly strange cord blood question was the last thing I wanted to deal with.
Is Cord Blood Banking Worth It?
To some degree, it’s kind of a question of risk, or insurance. The notion of paying for cord blood harvesting and storage plays on the emotions of parents who are often inclined to say, “money is no object” when it comes to “life or death” of a child. I view it as more of an insurance policy, but the in this case, the actuaries can’t agree on the stats.
The Science, Skeptics and Your Wallet
There are conflicting opinions from both scientists and skeptics about whether umbilical cord blood banking is worth the money. One common argument is that, especially for mono-racial children, there’s a very high likelihood that banking your own child’s cord blood is unnecessary because of the prevalence of donors elsewhere that would serve as an adequate match for various needs through public blood banks (list of public blood banks). However, there are some mentions of difficulty in finding matches for bi-racial children. Cord blood is commonly associated with treating leukemia and other blood cancers. While some doctors and the industry obviously tout the potential benefits, the skeptics abound. Here’s an actual lawsuit filed by parents who felt the company engaged in false advertising when the cord blood they saved was unable to treat their child’s condition.
How Much Does Cord Blood Banking Cost?
Since there are over 20 blood banks in operation now, it’s tough to give an exact price, but ranges are typically between $1,000-$2,000 upfront, with annual storage fees of about $100-$150. There may also be an additional doctor fee and courier fee equating to several hundred dollars. In our case, with three kids, to hang on to the material through childhood, we’d be talking in excess of $10,000.
Cord Blood Banking Companies:
This is obviously a very lucrative field, with over 20 blood banks sprouting up in recent years. Many of these firms tout their “proprietary technology” or “percent viable” studies after x number of years. I can’t personally recommend one over the other, but here are several blood banking companies out there:
- Genesis Bank
- Family Cord
Reasons FOR Cord Blood Banking
- Peace of Mind – Regardless of whether you actually ever have to rely on cord blood, many parents are willing to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that they did everything they could to protect their child. For instance, imagine the regret of knowing that years down the road, a child could have benefitted from this therapy but over a few thousand dollars, the parents chose not to save the cord blood.
- Medical Progress – While there are dozens of maladies that advocates claim cord blood can treat now, over time, the list may grow to include even more common or severe conditions that aren’t being treated now. Who knows, maybe someday, cord blood could help heal wounds, cure some sort of autoimmune disorder or something else we haven’t even contemplated?
Reasons AGAINST Cord Blood Storage
- False “Peace of Mind” for NO Benefit – Here’s a common issue with unproven or newly introduced therapies. People often pay exorbitant fees for something that has little or not benefit because they reason “What’s the harm?”, “What if it DOES work?” and such. This is the case with many “natural” remedies or unproven treatments for autism, arthritis and other maladies for which there isn’t an existing conventional therapy that’s working for them. By lulling people into a sense of “hope”, often times companies are able to extract large sums of money from populations without them realizing they’ve been ripped off. It’s tough to say that definitively about cord banking because there have been some cases of benefit and it’s not harmful. But it might come down to more a question of statistical likelihood you’d ever need it versus the cost. That’s a tough equation. Based on this paper in Pediatrics the medical establishment at large does not endorse private blood banking.
- Medical Progress – Contrary to the “FOR” argument, progress can work against you as well. I can’t count the number of times there’s been a new study or new finding that completely contradicts a prior study on everything from the benefits (or risks) of drinking coffee, eating peanut butter while pregnant, allergies, you name it! So, who’s to say that in 2 years, this whole cord blood storage option becomes totally obsolete because of medical progress elsewhere. Perhaps there’s a new synthetic material invented in a year that can fulfill the same function. Perhaps other adult cells can be manipulated to generate the same benefits within a few years. If medical advances continue at the going rate and this occurs, you will have shelled out thousands of dollars for nothing, even if your child DID need it.
- Cost – Aside from the other arguments above, for many parents, it’s not even an option if they wanted it given the prohibitive cost to so many. As obvious reason there’s probably not a net benefit to medical costs is that insurance doesn’t cover cord blood banking. Insurance covers other preventative treatments, checkups, vaccines and such, but not cord blood. To me, this says that the calculus demonstrates a net loss with regard to cost versus prevalence.
- “Bad Blood” – Without being intentionally insensitive, many doctors actually AVOID using a patient’s own blood therapy and instead resort to using that of others. Why? Because the issue that caused the underlying malady might be present in the blood itself, so you end up reintroducing the same disease you’re trying to treat!
Ultimately, my wife and I had decided not to bank our childrens’ cord blood. Our decision was along the usual party lines. She usually opts to spend money on things (I love her dearly, but she rarely turns down an opportunity) and then I rationalize why we shouldn’t. After presenting the evidence, the low likelihood of need and the costs involved for multiple children for years to come, she agreed and we opted not to proceed down that road. I’d like to think if one of our children was in need, blood from a public blood bank or another therapy could provide a similar outcome. We’ve put the equivalent we would have spent into their college funds instead.
Did You or Would You Bank Cord Blood For Your Kids?
Why or Why Not?