The obstetrician handed my husband and me a pamphlet that contained information about freezing our infant’s stem cells. It seemed like a pretty important decision, and one that I had no problem saying yes to immediately. After all, I had just spent a few (ahem) dollars trying to conceive, so what was a few thousand more to ensure my baby’s good health?
If I had a pen in hand, the brochure would have been half filled out. Knowing me all too well, my husband told the doctor we’d discuss it and let her know. I knew right away he wasn’t on board like I was. We hadn’t done any of our own research yet, and he didn’t want to make a decision based on emotion (clearly he wasn’t the one pumped with hormones).
In the end, we had a difference in opinion. One thing we did agree on, however, is that this was to be the first, of many parental decisions we’d make, that didn’t have a right or wrong answer.
What’s the real deal, anyway?
Deciding to bank your baby’s cord blood for stem cells in case it might come in handy some day is a personal choice that everyone from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has an opinion about.
Given that July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month, Health Net wants to give you the facts on saving your baby’s umbilical-cord blood. Is it a good idea? That depends, says ACOG. There are advantages and disadvantages, and doctors should educate their patients by dispensing balanced and accurate information regarding everything from choosing not to save a baby’s cord blood to the differences between private and public cord blood banking.
Cord blood controversy
Knowing the facts helps dispel many of the misconceptions around cord banking. First, people should know that cord blood transplants are limited to select genetic, hematologic and malignant disorders, according to ACOG. In addition, there are many conditions that are not treatable from a person’s own cells; in fact, ACOG concludes that the chances are rare of a successful treatment with an autologous transfusion of umbilical blood.
In addition, one of the issues with cord banking is the cost. Parents will need to shell out private cord-blood banking costs that fall roughly between $1,400 and $1,800, with a yearly storage fee that is somewhere in the neighborhood of $125.
Is there biological insurance?
According to ACOG, cord blood banking should be considered if there is a full sibling in the family with a malignant or genetic medical condition. In this instance, the child could potentially benefit (and be saved) from the cord blood of a sibling. It’s important for parents to understand that cord blood isn’t the only treatment should a child have a disease such as leukemia, however. There are other options like donated bone marrow from a family member or a bank – in other words cord blood is not the only hope.
A good option
Public cord blood banking is something parents should also consider when thinking about this topic. According to the AAP, donating to a public cord bank for no cost helps all people – and could even help your own child should he or she need it back. Public donation centers are not plentiful, however, so check the list of participating hospitals.
What’s most important, says Arthur Caplan, professor and founding head of the division of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, is that parents make the decision that feels best for them. Weigh the financial and emotional pros and cons, and don’t feel bad for choosing one decision over the other. If it gives you peace of mind, it just might be worth it.