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Should I bank my baby’s cord blood?

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#1 daviesjv

Posted 31 January 2011 - 01:43 PM

“I’m having baby number three in April and my obstetrician gave me some info about cord blood banking.  I can’t remember hearing about it with Babies 1 and 2 (maybe it wasn’t around then?) but now apparently you can have your newborn’s cord blood collected and you can either donate it to a public bank or you can pay a private bank to store it for you indefinitely, in case you need it.

The cost to have it collected and privately stored is pretty steep though, at a few thousand dollars, so I wondered whether it really is worth doing? What is it used for and is it really worth the cost?


Hi Caitlin. Similarly to you, I wasn’t aware of cord blood banking when I had my kids, although it has been available in Australia for a few years now. As you said though, there are two types of cord blood banking: Public banking – where the blood is donated and is available to anyone in the world who might need it, and: Private banking – where you retain ownership in the blood and it is stored exclusively for you. That type of banking comes at a cost.

I have sourced an answer to your query from Associate Professor Mark Kirkland, who is a stem cell researcher at the Institute of Technology and Research Innovation at Deakin University. He is also Medical Director at private cord blood bank Cell Care.

What is it?

According to Professor Kirkland, cord blood is special. “Cord blood is different to regular blood for several reasons,” he says. “It’s different because it isn’t aged; it hasn’t been exposed to the environment. That makes a difference because all cells in the body have an internal clock that ticks down. So when we collect cord blood, we are collecting cells at the early stages of life, when that clock is set at the earliest possible stage. The factory-default setting, if you like. Cord blood also has cells in it of a type that we don’t see at any later stage of life and has immune cells which are totally unique.”

What is it used for?

The current use for cord blood is for bone marrow diseases such as leukaemia. In the future, however, scientists are expecting that cord blood may well be used for a variety of other diseases, such as cerebral palsy and diabetes – two current areas of active investigation.

“The beauty of cord blood is that factory-default setting, particularly when it comes to the immune system” says Professor Kirkland.  “The immune system develops throughout childhood. But of course if anything goes wrong during that period then at the moment you are stuck with it. A lot of diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, for example, occur where something goes wrong with the immune system, and the current thinking is that these cord blood cells represent the child’s immune system prior to that. So the hope is that in the future it may be possible to use the cord blood cells to restore the immune system.”

Is it worth the cost?

It does cost around $3,000 to have your baby’s cord blood collected and stored for eighteen years (you can then opt to pay for further storage). Essentially it can be seen as an insurance policy; a medical “just in case” type of thing.

“It’s a bit controversial, the idea of storing cord blood now, because these new applications for it are still under development an some people say well, how can you ask people to pay to store cord blood when most potential applications aren’t proven yet?" Says Professor Kirkland. “But I often turn that question around and say, well, what are the chances that there won’t be uses for these cells in thirty years time. And frankly the chances that there won’t be uses for them are close to zero. And some of those uses will be things that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
“Parents can see it as being similar to an insurance policy. Diabetes affects 1 in 250 children; cerebral palsy is 1 in 500. A recent estimate said that the chances of needing a bone marrow transplant (which you can use cord blood for) throughout you life is around 1 in 400. Storing cord blood from one child can also potentially benefit a sibling; there is a 25% chance of cord blood from one child being a match for their sibling.”

Of course if you do fall ill you can access cord blood from a public bank and generally the wait is only around two months. However the difference, according to Professor Kirkland, is in the quality of the match. “If you access cord blood from a public bank then it’s coming from an unrelated donor and most unrelated donor transplants are a partial mismatch,” he explains. “So to be technical, there are six main antigens and blood from a public bank might yield a four or five out of six match. With cord blood you can get away with not having a complete tissue match but the better the match, the better the outcome. If it's your own blood, it's a perfect match and even the benefit of using a sibling is that about 25% will be a complete match. It can be a seriously better outcome.”

And while the technology and take up in Australia is still fairly new, it should be seen as a long-term proposition, with the current medical thinking being that cord blood will hopefully be available throughout life. “People have been storing cord blood for around 23 years; the last study that I looked at examined cord blood that had been stored for twenty years and there was no change to the blood,” says Professor Kirkland. “So at this stage, as far as we know, you can store cord blood indefinitely.”

“I suspect that in thirty or forty years it will be even more important to have stored your cord blood because of course by then you have forty or fifty years of aging on you and have access to blood which still has the characteristics of when you were born.

I think it’s sensible. I am a bit biased of course, because I’ve been a stem cell researcher for twenty years and when you start reading the scientific papers about cord blood, every second paper is talking about the enormous therapeutic potential of cord blood cells.  

If you think about where the technology will be in thirty years time … the potential is enormous.”

EB Members: Have you banked cord blood? Would you consider it?


#2 epona76

Posted 01 February 2011 - 05:00 PM

Of course I'd love to do it, no question, but the cost is simply prohibitve and WA offers no public cord blood banking facility/service. We might catch up with the rest of the world in 20 years or so.

#3 bettycar

Posted 01 February 2011 - 05:13 PM

QUOTE (epona76 @ 01/02/2011, 06:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Of course I'd love to do it, no question, but the cost is simply prohibitve and WA offers no public cord blood banking facility/service. We might catch up with the rest of the world in 20 years or so.

We just had our first baby & we stored her cord blood. It cost around $3k, which is quite expensive, but when you think that covers storage for 18 years, it's not really that much. We asked our obstetrician what his opinion was & he said if you can afford it, you should do it. $3k isn't much when you think it might save your baby's life in years to come. We're in Perth & there are no facilities here, but we went through a company in Melbourne & it was all done via couriers, very simple. If your obstetrician isn't trained in cord blood collection, they send someone to the hospital when you're delivering who can do it, and they only use one courier company who know how essential it is that the parcel gets where it's going on time & is handled correctly.

#4 snowclaws

Posted 02 February 2011 - 03:21 PM

we privately banked our first child (now 4) cord blood and now I am pregnant with no2, we will absolutely do it again. This is what our "baby bonus" paid for last time, and the paid maternity leave this time.

We do see it as a medical insurance policy.  My partner works in a medical field and sees far too many seriously sick children.  I'd pay any amount of money to help my child if he developed leukaemia or any other serious illness, much more than the cost of banking cord blood.

technology is evolving all the time, and in even 5 years the uses for cord blood will be significantly greater than today.  so we are looking to the future.

here's hoping that we never have to use it - but we get one shot at this, and we are taking it.  I'm happy to think "thank goodness we never needed it" but I  never want to look back and think "oh I had the opportunity and I WISH I had stored his cord blood"

#5 daviesjv

Posted 02 February 2011 - 05:16 PM

QUOTE (epona76 @ 01/02/2011, 05:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Of course I'd love to do it, no question, but the cost is simply prohibitve and WA offers no public cord blood banking facility/service. We might catch up with the rest of the world in 20 years or so.

I think cord blood banks are national; I know that Qld-based friends of mine have the cord blood of their babies stored in Sydney. As to the cost - it is expensive, but it's not as much as most Mums receive from either the Baby Bonus or Paid Maternity Leave. Plus I know that Cell Care has a payment plan option - so likely most private banks would.

#6 asha76

Posted 02 February 2011 - 07:12 PM

My obstetrician advised against it when I had my first one three years ago.  She said the cord blood can only be used on another sibling and not on the same person it is taken from.  There is also no guarantee that it will be enough of a match to be used.  

She also said that there is currently very little that it can be used for and by the time it is found to be useful in the treatment for a particular condition, it is likely that another more conventional treatment would have been discovered.

She advised that we take the money we would have spent on storing the cord blood and go on a Queensland holiday instead!

#7 grumpycow1986

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:10 PM

I would love to do it, but simply can't afford it.

#8 CountryBumpkin

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:22 PM

i looked into it, but decided against it. i let all the blood go to the child it was destined for original.gif

#9 new~mum~reenie

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:34 PM

That blood is some o fthe most nutrient rich fantastic blood around.

It is full of cancer fighting T cells, stem cells and red blood cells (remember - these carry the oxygen around your baby's body).

I let my baby keep it. It was his, after all.

How likely is it that my baby will need stored stem cells?According to Dr Sarah Buckley, in her well researched book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering (2005):

* The likelihood of low-risk children needing their own stored cells has been estimated at 1 in 20,000

* Cord blood donations are likely to be ineffective for the treatment of adults, because the number of stem cells are too small

* Cord blood may contain pre-leukemic changes and may increase the risk of relapse

* Autologous cord blood is only suitable for children who develop solid tumours, lymphomas or auto-immune disorders

* All other uses are speculative


Edited by new~mum~reenie, 02 February 2011 - 10:36 PM.

#10 Fright bat

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:34 PM

The only people who will tell you it's worthwhile are the companies trying to make money off it.

I was really keen and asked my ob, she told me to go off and review the literature and come back (i'm a doctor too) and if I was still keen, she'd do it. Afterthat exercise, we didn't bother.

1. Can't be used on the kid, only on siblings (as whatever you're trying to treat is probably present in the cord blood too so won't work)
2. If it can only be used on siblings, you can usually get something else from a matched sibling like bone marrow anyway.
3. The couple ml you get is only enough to treat a child up to about age 10, not nearly enough volume in adults.
4. We all have stem cells anyway, all the up and coming research is being done on so called adult stem cells which get isolated out of your fat.

If you want to give your baby the best start in life, put the 3 grand into an education fund or something, cord blood is a waste of money at this stage (and thats unlikely to change in the next ten years, especially as there's not much research being done on it's use anyway - adult stem cells are much more plentiful and therefore much more useful)

#11 alyssatahli

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:43 PM

I donated DD2's cord blood. I was told that if it is needed by our family and had not been used at that point, it would be available to us. Otherwise, I have helped a sick child. Best option IMO considering the very low risk of us needing it ourselves.

#12 henpen

Posted 02 February 2011 - 10:49 PM

I am absolutely for donating the cord blood to the Public Cord bank and would not pay the money for a private collection.

I have several reasons for this.

1. My feeling is that if my child had some form of congential defect - that the defect would most likely already be in their cells, making their own personal cord cells useless to fix them. I have put this theory to one of the private collection companies and they could not rule out that possibility. In fact - they confirmed that could indeed be the case for some illnesses.
2. The more people that donate their baby's cord blood - the more likely it will be to have the numbers needed to find a decent match in the public bank.
This is proven already by the existence of bone marrow registers and regular blood donation. I have heard many stories of a marrow donor being found on an overseas list as the recipients own family did not match or could not donate. Same with organ donation.

3. I would be so happy if our donation could save the life of anyones child that needs it rather then it sitting in a private (for profit) facility only to go to waste if my child did not need it or could not use it.

The only problem with the Public Cord Bank is the lack of funding.
I tried to donate my first son's cord but because of the cost (to the bank) to store it they need to bank a minimum amount of 50mls and my son's cord only gave 48mls.
I also wanted to donate my second son's cord blood, but again due to lack of funding - no staff from the bank were available to take the donation when he was born at 2.30am.

So sad it went to waste. There needs to be more government advertising and funding of the facilities so it can become as commonplace as the standard blood bank and marrow register.

#13 Pupalumps

Posted 04 February 2011 - 10:27 AM


Edited by Pupalumps, 11 April 2012 - 12:09 PM.

#14 TEN!

Posted 04 February 2011 - 11:08 AM

I donated my DD's cord blood to the public cord bank.  I was contacted last year by the Children's Hospital to advise it had been matched to a child with cancer, and to check on our health before doing a transplant with it.

My best friend's child died from cancer aged 3. He was 6 months older than my DD.  I am very happy that another family was given the chance to maybe save their child from the same fate by my family's donation.

For that reason I would never consider private banking if I were to have another child.

#15 hopeful09

Posted 04 February 2011 - 02:26 PM

I privately stored my baby cord blood. I wanted to donate to public, but there is not that facility in the ACT as yet. sad.gif

I figured that there are a lot more ways that we could waste 3 Grand on. I am a "what if?" kind of woman

#16 Chelara

Posted 04 February 2011 - 02:34 PM

I thought about donating and enquired. It wasn't possible in my hospital as it was a Catholic heathcare hospital- even though I was a public patient.

#17 Azadel

Posted 06 February 2011 - 08:26 PM

We looked into this, but decided if it's possible then I want the baby to have the benefit of the blood at birth, and delay cutting.

#18 tokendoula

Posted 07 February 2011 - 07:36 PM

I have worked in both the private and public banks. I can tell you this much for free - Private banking is  scam. Go public if you can, or give the baby his or her own cord blood by delayed cord clamping. Do not trust what the private bank sales person says. They employ area reps to schmooze the obstetricians and they have monthly sales targets - like pharmaceutical companies and car salesmen.

Insurance policy? If your child becomes ill, the public bank willfind you a match. They're not even using autologous banked blood in Australia at this stage. Another dodgy thing is that some obstetricians have shares in these private cord blood storage companies. They also make money for collecting the private cord blood for the patient. There is a concerning financial interest that signals alarm bells for me.

Do plenty of research and ask questions. Ultimately it is up to you. However, I personally and professionally have seen both of these options frm the inside, and while they both have their faults, the public option is more ethical.

#19 catmeow82

Posted 12 February 2011 - 06:06 AM

I would have banked cord blood if we could have afforded it and if my hospital had allowed for collection of it. You just never know and it could save your childs or other children's lives.

When it comes to using cord blood the closest match gives the best results. So a family memeber or extended family member is going to be better than going out to the greater public looking for the closest possible match.

#20 tokendoula

Posted 12 February 2011 - 08:10 AM

QUOTE (catmeow82 @ 12/02/2011, 07:06 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When it comes to using cord blood the closest match gives the best results. So a family memeber or extended family member is going to be better than going out to the greater public looking for the closest possible match.

Incorrect. The closest match could come from anyone, anywhere in the world.

#21 runnybabbit

Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:28 PM

Just thought I'd post this here, since it's relevant. We're thinking of banking our baby's cord blood privately because there are no public banks in WA as yet. We would have liked to donate to a public bank for therapeutic use or research, but apparently the best way to donate to research is through a public bank, too.

I spoke to Cell Care and out of 10,000 samples banked over the past eight years, four have been retrieved for therapeutic use. All four retrievals have been made in the past year. Three for autologous use (two leukaemia and one cerebral palsy) and one for a sibling.

At Cryosite out of 9,000 samples banked over the past 10 years, one has been retrieved, again just in the past year, for autologous use, for leukaemia, I think (I remember it was a bone marrow-y disorder).

If that helps anyone make their decision. We will probably see retrieval rates increase as medical technologies advance, and as banking rates increase.

#22 tokendoula

Posted 16 March 2011 - 03:10 PM

I think I would go with current research which suggests that it is detrimental to an unwell person to receive their own cells which potentially carry the ailment that they are attempting to cure.

#23 Slootsky

Posted 22 March 2011 - 08:18 AM

My first two babies blood may have been taken (for profit) with immediate cord clamping after birth and my second child having his cord cut before he was even born and seriously risking brain damage or his life!

With baby no.3 I learnt about about cord blood, the role of placental blood flow after birth in establishing respiration, avoiding iron deficienciens, etc.

We didn't cut the cord and well after it had stopped pulsing.

Placenta and cord blood is part of the babies system, not ours. It belongs to them!

#24 StopTheGoats

Posted 22 March 2011 - 08:34 AM


Edited by OldMajor, 24 March 2011 - 01:12 PM.

#25 Giota_78

Posted 26 March 2011 - 01:09 AM

Actually tokendoula, it's better to use your own cells if possible as opposed to someone elses cells.

If you use someone elses cells, particularly in cases of bone marrow transplant for treatment for various types of cancer, you run the risk of a rejection episode.


Immune-suppresion can help but does have it's own set of side effects.

Doctor's will search for the best match possible but it is a risky procedure.

I'm all for cord blood storage.

There are low rates of people using these storage banks because people only use it in extreme circumstances (i.e. for immunotherapy, cancer treatment, etc).

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