Umbilical cord blood banking is a procedure where your OB takes some of the blood (and now tissue) from the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is born and the cord has been cut. You may never have thought about what we do with that stuff.
What happens to your baby's umbilical cord?
In the past, it has usually been discarded as medical waste, although some women want to take it home with them. Over the last two decades medical advances have been developed in which the cells from that blood can be used to treat several diseases. The cells have unique characteristics that allow them to change into a multitude of different cell types (called pluripotent cells.) The idea is that some children and adults with certain genetic abnormalities or certain cancers can benefit from these cells. The cells can be grown to replenish the normal cells or treat abnormal cells.
The options for umbilical cord banking are divided primarily into what’s called public and private cord blood banking.
Private cord banking
Private cord banking is just what it sounds like: we collect the blood at the time of your delivery and you send it to a business that processes it and stores it for you. The cost of this varies currently from somewhere between $2000 and $3000 for initial processing and from about $120 and $300 per year to store it. In this case, you are storing the cells for yourself and your family.
Public cord banking
Alternatively, public cord banking is something anyone who delivers at certain hospitals has the opportunity to do. There is a public cord blood system that has been growing since 1990 that is similar to the blood bank and is used for individuals who need the blood due to illness or injury.
At Swedish, all patients can donate cord blood to the Puget Sound Blood Center. The cord blood collected for this bank is available to all individuals based on need. The cord blood collected is not specifically available to the individual who donated it. We are happy to collect blood from all families, but are finding increased needs in patients who are ethnic minorities or a mixed race couple. The cord blood also can be directed to Fred Hutchinson Research Center for ongoing research regarding current and future treatments.
Isn't cord blood banking controversial?
There are ...