These days, it’s becoming common for parents to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood. This may be a new concept for you – but some parents consider cord blood a kind of biological insurance for their child’s future. That's because it contains stem cells that can be used for bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and cancer. The cells can also be used in regenerative medicine, an emerging field that studies how to repair tissue damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy. A baby’s own blood will provide the perfect match.
According to ABC News, there are two ways to save cord blood. There are 17 public cord-blood banks in the U.S. that accept donations through the National Bone Marrow Program. They collect and store the blood for free – and provide it to any transplant patient who’s a match. There are also numerous private banks that save the blood exclusively for the family that donated it. They charge about $2,500 up front – plus a yearly $100 storage fee. However, experts say it may not be worth the money. Scientists point out that regenerative medicine is still experimental. So storing the blood for your family “just in case” is a waste of life-saving resources, and if your child is diagnosed with a genetic disease where cord blood could help, their own blood is useless, because it already contains the disease-causing gene. Pediatric cancer specialists say that cord blood donations definitely save lives, but right now, the only good reason to store cord blood specifically for your family is if you have a child who’s already sick. Because having a sibling’s cord blood increases the chances of finding a match. Want to go further? To find out if your hospital accepts umbilical cord blood donations – check the National Marrow Donor Program at Marrow.org.