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Umbilical Cord Blood Banking

Learn the pros and cons of donating or saving these special cells.

pregnant woman sitting on exam table

Before a birth, parents have many decisions to make. Among the choices may be whether to collect blood from the umbilical cord after delivery.

The umbilical cord is the part of the placenta that carries nutrients to a growing fetus. Doctors have learned that the blood in this cord is a rich source of stem cells. Stem cells are cells that develop into blood or other cell types. They can be useful in treating some genetic, blood and cancer diseases and immune disorders in children.

In one such process, healthy stem cells from a matching donor are transplanted into a patient. Stem cells are also used in medical research and are being studied for other treatments.

Parents have several options to discuss with their doctor. These talks should occur as you’re thoughtfully planning the birth, not during delivery when emotions are running high.

You may discuss:

Not collecting the blood
The cord is typically discarded after birth.

Donating the cord blood to a public bank
A cord blood bank is similar to a traditional blood bank. With this option, the potentially life-saving blood can be used to treat any person who might need it. There is usually no cost to parents. The donation is made anonymously, so it’s no longer available to the family.

Storing the blood in a private bank
The cord blood is sent to a private cord-blood bank and stored for the family. A family with a history of a disease that can be treated with stem cells might choose this option, which can be expensive.

Other parents might choose a private bank as a sort of insurance policy for what could happen down the road. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages this practice. There is no data to show how often family cord blood is useful. The Academy instead encourages donation to a public cord-blood bank.

It’s up to you. Your family health history may influence your decision on whether to donate or store umbilical cord blood. It is a personal decision that you can make with your doctor.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

American Academy of Pediatrics. Ages and stages. Should we store our newborn’s cord blood? Accessed June 29, 2016.
National Institute of Health. Stem cell information. Stem cell basics. Accessed: June 29, 2016.
Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines, blood & biologics. Accessed: June 29, 2016. Cord-blood banking. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

Last Updated: June 29, 2016